Seimori Grand Temple – Kozan’s Heart to Buddhism

In Kinmyou (alternatively romanized as Kinmei) of Pohatoshin province in Eastern Kozan, the Risuoka ward is home to a thriving Buddhist and youkai community. The heart of the ward is the Seimori Grand Temple (生森寺 Seimori-ji). The temple has been at its present location since 1953. Originally founded as a conservative Buddhist temple in 1867 following the Meiji Restoration, it has gradually moved closer to Zen Buddhism in the early 1900s.

History

Meiji Period (1867 – 1912)

The temple was built in Kinmyou following the Meiji Restoration as a breakaway group from the earlier Seimori Grand Shrine, a Shinto shrine built in 1854 to enshrine the spirit of a former mayor of Kinmyou. The temple was chartered in 1868 and acquired land to use for a cemetery. Congregations met in temporary locations in the downtown area of Kinmyou in its early years until in 1883 when they bought a former property that belonged to a Shinto shrine.

The temple became the city’s center for youkai-borns as Buddhism is their dominant religion. At around the same time as the property purchase, they shortened prayer services and began practicing Zen Buddhism in 1886. However, the temple did not adopt the Zen ideology until the early 1900s. In 1906, the temple was demolished and rebuilt in the Kashiwagou ward. English-language services were also introduced the same year.

Taisho and Showa Periods (1912-1989)

Beginning in the 1920s late into the Taisho period, the temple shifted to more left-wing Buddhism after WWI under the direction of temple priest Hirokazu Kagurazaka, who headed it for nearly 50 years. Among the practices by Kagurazaka included acapella music during prayer services, the elimination of hereditary dharma transmission, and the calling of female worshipers to become monks.

In 1953, the temple was demolished again and moved back to its original Risuoka location. This new building symbolically showed their ties to Japanese Buddhism with a tapestry in the lobby. The temple also included a library, kitchen, arts and crafts store, and a storage room for keeping objects for different parts of the year. In 1959, the temple replaced their tapestry with a new one depicting the mythological story of the creation of Japan and the introduction of Buddhism into the country.

Heisei Period (1989 – 2019)

In 1995, the temple had more than 85,000 attendees yearly. But on the morning of October 24, 1998, the temple fell victim to a terrorist attack by the Shintoist Province of Scarlet Devil of Team Crimson. A Crimsonite had entered the temple and chanted anti-Buddhist statements before attacking the congregants with danmaku. He allegedly killed eleven and wounded seven, four of the wounded were police officers.

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