The Story of Kumano -
The Story of "Ippen Shonin"
(A founder of Jishu sect of Buddhism)

The Murakami Navy
Ippen Shonin was born into the family of the powerful Kouno Suigun (navy) in Iyo (Ehime Prefecture). He lost his mother and subsequently became a monk at the age of 10, following his father's orders. Ippen Shonin's family name was Ochi. He was born in 1239, the son of Shichiro Michihiro, and grandson of Kouno Shiro Michinobu. He headed for Dazaifu for his training at the age of 15. This photo shows the time when he is just leaving his home with a monk called Zennyu. The people seeing him off are his father and other members of his family.
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The Pilgrimage to Koya
Ippen Shonin, after finishing his sermons at Tennoji, followed the Kumano Kaido High Road to the south and climbed Mt. Koya to visit the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi. After climbing up through a forest of stupas you will find an opening where the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi can be found. The photo shows Ippen Shonin praying there.
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The Encounter with Kumano Gongen
After visiting Mt. Koya, Ippen Shonin went farther down south towards Kumano. In the mountains of Kumano on the Nakaheji Route, he encountered Kumano Gongen in the disguise of a monk. Without knowing that he was Kumano Gongen, Ippen Shonin chanted Nenbutsu faithfully and tried to give a talisman to this old monk. But the old monk refused to receive it saying he could not feel the depth of Ippen Shonin's faith.
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The Kumano Hongu Grand Shrine
Ippen Shonin, after the talisman of his faith was refused, then visited Kumano Hongu Grand Shrine with a very troubled mind. There he received a revelation from the Kumano Gongen. As Ippen Shonin was praying in front of 'Shojoden', the main building on the right, the Kumano Gongen appeared saying, 'Salvation of all human beings resides in believing in Amidabutsu. You should give over your talisman regardless of how faithful or faithless, pure or impure are the people you meet.' When he came to himself he found himself surrounded by children who all wanted his talisman.
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A Monument to Ippen Shonin
Ippen Shonin, the founder of the Jishu sect is believed to have encountered the Kumano Gongen at Kumano Hongu Shrine and thereby became enlightened. This shows the close relation of Kumano Gongen of Shinto and Amidanyorai of Buddhism in the 'Era of Buddhist/Shinto Unification'. Given this close relationship it was natural for a Buddhist monk to become enlightened in Kumano. The stone monument for Ippen Shonin is not the only one honouring a Buddhist in Kumano. Due to the hand of Tokuhon Shonin, an 18th century monk of the Jodo sect of Buddhism, other Buddhist monuments remain in various parts of Kumano.
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Going Down Kumano River
The photo here shows Ippen Shonin and his party going down the rapids of Kumano River in a river boat from Kumano Hongu Grand Shrine. Ippen went down the rapids with confidence in his Nenbutsu after receiving his revelation from the Kumano Gongen. Today, Kumano River is gentle and tame due to a newly built dam upstream, but it used to be a rapid river with a much greater volume of water flowing out to sea. Ippen Shonin and his party boarded a boat after visiting Hongu and went down the river like an arrow navigating many sharp bends and following the river past steep cliffs and over rushing rapids. The river becomes gentler as it comes closer to the river mouth making it easier to disembark at Shingu.
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Kumano Hayatama Grand Shrine
Ippen Shonin, after arriving in Shingu, went to the Kumano Hayatama Grand Shrine and prayed to the Kumano Gongen. You can walk from the river bank of Kumano River through the main gate to Kumano Hayatama Grand Shrine. There is also a South Gate in the middle. To its left is a large shrine building where people can pray. Ippen Shonin also prayed there. To the west of the main building there are Kekku, Hayatamakyu, Shoseiden, Wakamiya, Chushisha, and Shimoshisha.
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Kumano Nachi Grand Shrine
If you follow the coast from Shingu and to Nachi and then up Nachi River toward the mountains, you will come to the Kumano Nachi Grand Shrine with the famous Nachi Falls as a backdrop. It is said that people could see into the nature of God by standing near this waterfall.

There they would pray for Kannon when they looked up at the Nachi Falls falling down straight out of the sky and from between the mountains. The photo shows Nachi Falls as deified in the Hiryu Shrine and Ippen Shonin visiting Kumano Nachi Grand Shrine. Going up Daimonzaka through the gate will bring you to Jinguji Temple, now called Seigantoji Temple. Ippen Shonin is shown chanting with his heart and soul in front of Kechigu next to the temple. After visiting Kumano, he formed the religious order of Jishu and spread the Nenbutsu among the people.
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