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Inishie-no-Michi in Kofu

Gozan temples between Takeda Shrine and Kai-Zenkoji

The meaning of 'Gozan'

During the Southern Song Dynasty in China (1127–1279), there was a system of state sponsored temples commonly called the 'Five Mountain' system. 'Five Mountains' really meant five temples (temples were very often located on mountains.) It was the duty of these temples to pray for the protection and safety of the state.

Gozan System in Japan

In the late Kamakura Era (1185–1333) this system was adapted in Japan, notably in Kamakura and Kyoto. The Kamakura Gozan temples are Kencho-ji, Engaku-ji, Jufuku-ji, Jochi-ji and Jomyo-ji, ranked in order of importance. The Kyoto Gozan temples are Nanzenji, Tenryuji, Shokokuji, Kenninji, Tofukuji, and Manjuji, again in order of importance. These temples were under the patronage - and the control - of the ruling shogunate.

Statue of Lord Shingen Takeda
Statue of Lord Shingen Takeda

Kofu Gozan temples

In Kofu City, Lord Shingen Takeda, who was a Buddhist priest as well as a powerful Daimyo, chose five Rinzai Temples to be the Kofu Gozan. These temples were all located at the foot of the mountains to the North of Kofu, between Takeda's fortified residence (now the site of Takeda Shrine) and Kai-Zenkoji. The selected temples were Chozen-ji, Toko-ji, Enko-in, Nojo-ji and Hosen-ji. Of these, Chozen-ji was the highest-ranked of these temples, but I can't tell you the ranking of the others.

Inishie-no-michi - a walking (or cycling) trail starting at Kofu Station and including Takeda Shrine, Shingen Takeda's grave, and the five Kofu Gozan temples.
Inishie-no-michi - a walking (or cycling) trail starting at Kofu Station and including Takeda Shrine, Shingen Takeda's grave, and the five Kofu Gozan temples.

Historical walk

There is a walking or cycling trail named Inishie no michi which could perhaps be translated as 'Path of Antiquity' or 'Way of the Ancients'. The trail starts from Kofu JR Station, and includes Takeda Shrine, all five Gozan Temples, and Takeda Shingen's grave (although his cremated remains are actually at Erin-ji in Koshu City.) There are small maps outside all the points of interest along the way to help keep pilgrims and explorers on track.

Tragedy for Kofu City

Sadly two of these temples, Chozen-ji and Nojo-ji, were burned to the ground in the 1945 air raid that killed 740 civilians and destroyed 80% of Kofu City. They were were rebuilt in the 1950s, but nothing could be done to restore the lost treasures they contained.

My personal favorites

Unfortunately I am hopeless at following maps, and I never made it to Hosen-ji. I'll try to go there next time I visit Kofu. Out of the remaining four temples, I was most impressed with Toko-ji. I especially liked the dry garden there with the beautiful standing rocks. I also loved the open-sided 'room' with its scroll and flower arrangement, where visitors can rest and admire the garden. My second favorite was Chozen-ji, because I loved the view of two pagodas, one behind the other.

How about you?

If you have visited any of these temples, please share your thoughts about them!

Shingen Takeda's grave
Shingen Takeda's grave
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Sherilyn Siy 4 years ago
The green on your Chozen-ji photo is so brilliant and soothing to the eye.
Cathy Cawood Author 4 years ago
Japanese temples with gardens are often gorgeously green from May to July.
Elena Lisina 4 years ago
With knowing history the places are really special. My dream is to make a trip on historical sites of Japan, though of course each place has its history. Lord Takeda looks powerful!
Justin Velgus 4 years ago
Compact article with essential information and few fun tidbits. I didn't know the Gozan system was all around Japan. We have a set of 5 in the Kitayama area of Sendai, too.
Cathy Cawood Author 4 years ago
There are sets of three temples named Sanzan as well. One autumn I visited two of the Koto Sanzan temples in Shiga, and Kumano Sanzan is pretty famous.
Sleiman Azizi 5 years ago
I've yet to visit. Takeda is a bit of a name in Japan. Most things associated with him are worth seeing, I think. Out of curiosity, on your visit, did you come across any noodle shops (handmade, one hopes)?
Gary Luscombe 3 years ago
I haven't been here yet but I have visited the Takeda 'grave' in Okunoin on Koyasan. It is surprisingly understated compared to that of his rival, Uesugi Kenshin, which is nearby.

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