The stories of Kumano - Jofuku

Jofuku (Xifu) Raicho no Zu
Jofuku, pronounced Xifu in Chinese, came to Japan during the Jomon Era in the 3rd century B.C. It is said that he landed near Shingu and brought with him much Chinese culture and technology.

Jofuku was at the time serving as a Taoist shaman to the Emperor Shikoutei of the Xin Dynasty in China about 2200 years ago. He was ordered by the emperor to set out in order to 'find the elixir of eternal life which is said to be on the mountain of Horai on the sea to the east'. He eventually arrived in Kumano and with him he brought about 3000 people, men, women, and children. Unfortunately for the emperor he never returned to China. The picture here shows the time of their landing. Jofuku is in the middle of the front row and behind him you can see a lot of the children who came with him.
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The Sea-Ancient Gateway to the World
It was this coastline which first welcomed Jofuku and his party after their long voyage. Surely they must have felt the 'healing' power of Kumano as they arrived in this land of warmth and scenic beauty where the Black Current runs nearest to the land.
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Jofuku Shrine
Although various legends about Jofuku are found all over Japan, his tomb is found only in Kumano. Jofuku's grave is well-known to the citizens of Shingu City. Jofuku, instead of going back to China, spent the rest of his life in Kumano. His grave is in the east of Shingu City, which has a market nearby bustling with shoppers from the early morning on. The tombstone was built by order of Tokugawa Yorinobu, the lord of Kishu. Next to it, under the shade of a Tendai Uyaku plant and a big camphor tree, lies a monument of the 'seven disciples' which honours Jofuku's seven senior retainers. Recently, this site has been designated as 'Jofuku Memorial Park' complete with a Chinese style gate, where a memorial festival is now held every August.
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Tendai Uyaku
This plant which is called 'Tendai Uyaku' is said to be the plant which Jofuku succeeded in gathering after searching in the Horai Mountain area. This plant is of the camphor family and naturally grows in the mountains of Kumano. It does not guarantee eternal life, but its root is used as a potent medicine for kidney disease and rheumatism. This plant is now made into 'Jofuku tea' and 'Jofuku wine'.
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Jofuku no Miya
Jofuku no Miya is the shrine named after the Chinese explorer Jofuku who came in search of the elixir of immortality at the behest of his Emperor. According to legend Jofuku did not return to China but chose to remain in Kumano. It is believed that it was Jofuku who brought Chinese culture and technology to the region. Hence Chinese methods of farming, fishing, whaling, papermaking, and so on became widespread here and elsewhere in Japan. At that time Kumano was a key location for bringing the culture of the outside world to the inner reaches of Japan, being situated as it was along important sea routes. These sea routes were the main channels of communication and trade with the rest of the world and were important in the history of Japan's development and opening up to the world.
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Jofuku Gravestone
There are various legends about Jofuku having visited all over Japan. This stone monument deifying Jofuku is found in Jofuku Memorial Park in Shingu City in Wakayama Prefecture. Jofuku and the 3000 Taoist men, women, and children who migrated to Japan had a truly epochal impact on Japanese culture. At the time of Jofuku's arrival, Japan was still in the Stone Age.
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