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Tale of Echizen Jofukuji Temple 2

Sequel to the story of the Taira Clan's family temple

Jofukuji is the family temple of Taira Clan, which stands in the middle of rice paddies in Echizen City, Fukui. In the first part of this story, I wrote about how I stumbled across this temple, and how Ike-no Zenni, the stepmother of Taira-no Kiyomori (Taira Clan's leader), saved the life of young Minamoto-no Yoritomo (later the founder of the Kamakura Shogunate), who was captured in the Heiji Rebellion (1160) and was about to be executed.

In this sequel, I will explain how this family temple of Taira Clan has survived in the subsequently Genji Clan-ruled Japan.

Taira Clan perished and Kamakura Shogunate was founded Minamoto-no Yoritomo, whose life was saved by the stepmother (Ike-no Zenni) of his enemy Taira-no Kiyomori, later destroyed Taira Clan and founded Kamakura Shogunate in 1192. Although the once-prosperous, powerful Taira Clan's destiny was to find their own graves at the bottom of the western sea (in the Battle of Dan-no-ura), Ike-no Zenni and her family were spared. Ike-no Zenni had a real son by the name of Yorimori. He was a step-brother of Taira Clan's leader, Taira-no Kiyomori, and so was destined to die. But since his mother saved the current ruler Yoritomo when he was a child, Yorimori and his family were not only spared but also were treated very well under the Genji-ruled Kamakura Shogunate.

History of Jofukuji Temple Jofukuji Temple was built by Taira-no Yasumori, the son of Yorimori, in 1207, when he was appointed as a governor of Echizen region. He built this temple to pray for the souls of the whole Taira Clan, which sank deep down to the bottom of western sea. The temple was then moved to the current location in 1624. In Edo Period, the successive lords of Fukui Matsudaira Clan (they were Genji!) paid visits to this temple and enjoyed the beautiful cherry blossoms here each year. The Taira Clan's lineage, which Ike-no Zenni saved 855 years ago, has been inherited through generations and now is bequeathed to the 36th head of Taira family, the 24th head priest of Jofukuji Temple.

Visiting Jofukuji Temple When I visited the temple, I wanted to see the Japanese Garden there, which was designated as a National Scenic Beauty of Japan. I banged the door of the residential-looking building standing beside the main hall. Sometime later an old man answered my door-banging. When I asked him to let me see the garden, he said, "Well, there's still snow in the garden and we haven't manicured it yet. It's far from ready for the public viewing in the coming spring". Nevertheless, he kindly showed me the spacious guest rooms and the garden in the back. He told me curious story after story over the next hour. Later, I wondered whether this old man, who acted as though he owned the place, was not the 35th head of Taira Clan, the previous head priest of this temple?! If he was, have I witnessed the living descendent of THE TAIRA CLAN with my own eyes? Not only have I witnessed him but also I have talked and laughed with him?! Wow, if you come to Fukui and you are lucky, you can meet descendents of famous historical figures this easily!

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Elizabeth S 3 years ago
Great story telling! And what an experience to meet an inheritor of the Taira Clan saga!

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