Number 27Chōkō-ji temple
History of the temple
It is believed that the temple’s history started in Yōrō period (717-724) with an enshrinement of Buddha Yakushi (Buddha of Medicine and Healing). According to the legend, six years later a monk named Taichō, who was on a pilgrimage around the country, stayed here for the night. In his dream he saw Buddha Yakushi, who told him: Make a Buddhist statue from the big tree up front and save people. When he woke up, he looked at the tree and saw an image of Dainichi Nyorai (Great Illuminating Buddha) in it. He did as he was told in his dream and carved a statue of Dainichi Nyorai in one day and one night. Because the statue was granting all types of peoples’ wishes, very quickly a temple was built around it.
In July of 817 the temple was rebuilt by Kūkai (774-835), the founder of Shingon sect. In 1242 a monk named Mangetsu became a new temporary abbot. He added a new building to the complex and named the temple Kitajima Chōkō-ji. At the beginning this temple was used as a shelter for the poor, sick, and for the orphans. Since the 9th Century it belonged to Tendai school of Buddhism but in 1545, when the Lord of Tomida castle Nambu Kanetsuna rebuilt this temple and made it his bodai-ji (a temple performing ceremonies for the souls of clan members), it changed to Sōtō branch of Zen Buddhism. In September of the same year Kanetsuna presented a small bell and a gong to Shōzan, the abbot of Chōkō-ji. Since then the temple was protected by the Lords of the nearby castle.
On the 28th of May 1564, during the times of abbot Tetsumon, the temple was moved from Kitajima area to a former site of Tomida castle. At the time it probably used to stand just beside the Toride Shrine but had to be moved to the current location due to construction of the Kansai line train tracks. In October of 1568 the temple lost its buildings during Oda Nobunaga’s assault on Ise province. In 1573 all Buddhist statues including Bishamon (God of Treasure, Wealth, & Warriors) and Goddess Kannon were deposited at Tarusakasan Kannon-ji.
The Main Hall of Chōkō-ji was rebuilt once again in 1766 and in the following year it was granted a status of an official sub-temple of Eihei-ji (the main temple of Zen Sōtō school). It probably happened at the times of Sakudonō the 8th abbot of Chōkō-ji. The 45th abbot of Eihei-ji Hōsan Tankai and the 46th abbot of Eihei-ji Misan Ryōshu were honorifically called the 1st and the 2nd founder of Chōkō-ji. The 10th abbot of Chōkō-ji Tenmyō followed the will of the previous abbots and continued the repairs and further construction of the temple. Thank to him the temple flourished and became a praying ground for people of the six villages in Tomida area.
In the February of 1834 the Gate with a bell tower was erected. In 1844 a ceremony of unveiling the main statue of Dainichi Nyorai was held. It was followed with theatrical performance and other entertainment for the local community. The Main Hall was destroyed by an earthquake that occurred on the 14th of June 1854. It was once again rebuilt and finished on the 17th of March 1879 by the 17th abbot Chikudō. Until then Chōkō-ji had experienced the difficult times of Meiji Restoration and anti-Buddhist movements.
In the Meiji period (1868-1912) the abbot’s quarters were changed to a temporary building of Tomida Primary School and the Main Hall became a temporary building of Mie Prefecture 2nd Junior High School. Chōkō-ji was a part of the Tomida area history where local festivals and memorial service for the hunted whales were held. But in 1953 the temple’s grounds were cut in half by a road and the temple has lost its historical shape. In 1996 the Gate with the bell tower was dismantled due to its poor condition. The old Main Hall, which was struck by an earthquake in 1944 and flooded during the 1959’s typhoon, had to be taken down and rebuilt. A new Main Hall was finished in 2001.