In Regards to the Mythology of Shaka-In
Folklore and mythology serve a number of human functions. It is often dismissed due to inaccuracy or fiction, but nonetheless it existence typically was at one point with a purpose. Mythology supports a sociological structure and hierarchy amongst a people. It supports an ethical code in the absence of reasonable cause. It may give a means to protect children, who are not of understanding of a complex and dangerous world. It may also serve to inspire its members to higher goals and expectations in life.
The folklore in Shaka-In while potentially not accurate or even true served a number of functions to its people. In some ways, it is still inspiring to a number of students seeking a world of magic and knowledge and thusly it serves the modern population as well.
Posted at Shaka-In is the the general mythological story of the temples creation and of the events that had taken place. The heart of this story should matter to the descendents of James Mitose as stories of our upbringing affect us much more deeply then we may know. James would very much be affected by the mythology of not only Shakain but also the mythology of Japan, Shinto and Buddhism. Again, a myth may contain only the smallest element of truth, but there is truth in its effects.
The Folklore of Shaka-In
In 778 AD Chozen Daishi was born. At the age of thirteen, he became a Buddhist monk at the Yakushi temple at Mt. Ikura in Kyushu, Japan. In 799 AD, at the age of twenty-one, Chozen Daishi noticed a peculiar cloud over the top of Mt. Kinkai. He climbed the mountain and began meditating there. He built a house there and enshrined a statue of Shaka—or Buddha-- within the house. He names this house Shaka-In, meaning Buddha’s house.
Some time after the resurrection of Shaka-In, Chozen Daishi was enlightened with a vision. He would journey to the mainland to report his vision to the Emperor Kanmu of Japan. At this same time, the Emperor fell to illness and was calling anyone who could heal him. Upon his arrival, Chozen treated and cured the Emperor of his illness, saving the Emperor’s life. Chozen for his deed was rewarded with the title of Daishi, an official term bestowed upon Samurai of high mastery, rice fields, and territory to build a temple at Shaka-in.
In 804 AD, the temple at Shaka-In was built. The temple would eventually contain nearly 100 buildings and house nearly 400 monks. The temple would develop in a number of religious traditions through the years including Rinzai Buddhism, Shingon Buddhism, Tendai Buddhism, Shinto and much later Christianity. It is also recorded that the temple would produce a number of branch temples within the region.
The temple guardians were referred to as the Sohei or "warrior monks"-but this is a term that describes the priests with soldier or guard duty at all temples. It was the warrior monks’ duty to protect the temple, its territories, and to fight in wars sanctioned by the temple. During times of peace, the Sohei would wear normal monk’s robes and carry a short staff or jo. During times of war, the Sohei would wear heavy Samurai-like armor, black masks and utilize the naginata, a long staff with a sword blade on the end, as their primary weapon.
Between the years 1568-1600 AD, Japan was going through a period of civil change and up rest known as the period of "national unification". Two prominent figures resided within the region of Shaka-In: Kato Kiyomasa also known as the "devil general" and builder of Kumamoto Castle, and Konishi Yukinaga, the warlord, or Daimyo, of Kyushu. The two figures were prominent in the local history and of the outcomes at Shaka-In due to their rivalry and common tasks of command under Toyotomi Hideoyoshi, the imperial regent to the land.
In 1585, Toyotomi Hideyoshi was awarded the kampaku "chief advisor to the emperor" and installed Kato Kiyomasa as providential leader to Kumamoto. Kato had served in Hideoyoshi's army, enlisting at the age of 14 in 1576, and became well known for his outstanding and distinguished conduct during the battles at Yamazaki and Shizugatake. He would be come one of the seven important generals and become one of the high commanders during the Korean conflicts. Kato Kiyomasa would expand Kumamoto castle to support the region.
In 1588 AD, Konishi Korimasa fearing the growth and power of Shaka-In, and potential stronghold for Kato Korimasa and other warlords, attacked and burned the temple. The temple folklore states that 5000 Samurai were sent to attack the temple. The Sohei being outnumbered 12 to 1, succeeded in protecting and saving temple artifacts, documents and the sacred old pine tree of Buddha. Konishi occupied the temple’s territories and destroyed all 49 of the temple’s branches throughout the region.
Hideoyoshi would order an invasion of Korea known as the Seven Year War (1592-1598). He would install Kato and Konishi as the two commanders for the invasion. The invasion was triggered due to Konishi making a false diplomatic truce with Korea. Outraged by the false diplomacy, Konishi was still sent in command of the invasion.
After Hideoyoshis death in 1598, Konishi would wrongfully side with a losing shogun state. He would refuse to commit seppuku, which was mandated by the Code of the Samurai—but against the Christian beliefs of the converted Konishi. His conversion would take place during his time in Korea as a diplomat. A losing Konishi would flee to the mountains where he was capture and then beheaded by Kato on November 6, 1600, due to the outlawing of Christianity in 1587 and his failure to abide the warrior code.
In 1600 AD, all of Japan was unified under one warlord by the name of Tokugawa Ieyasu. This marked the beginning of the Tokugawa Regime (1600-1867 AD), a period where control was maintained by the Shogun under the divine consent of the Emperor. After Kato's death in 1611, leadership of Kumamoto was transferred to his son Kato Torihito. In 1620 AD, Kato Torihito donated lands and funds to rebuild Shaka-In. The temple arts and traditions were then kept as secret family traditions, passed from one generation to the next. The temple grounds remaining today are those that were rebuilt after 1620 AD.
Generations of monks, families and religions would be supported at Shaka-In up until the World War II at which time the temple was closed down. Resources were devoted to the mandated state of Japan in preparations for the war.
The Folklore of the Kosho Lineage
Within the current remains of the Shaka-In temple, there exists historical documents referred to as the 38 articles. The sixteenth article refers to a stranger that came upon the temple ground in approximately the late 1220s to early 1230s. This stranger, the founder and first ancestor of Kenpo, as stated by James Mitose was a Zen Buddhist priest, mostly likely from the Rinzai Tradition, and a master martial artist. He came to the temple grounds seeking answers to the pacifism taught to him by his religion and the destruction taught to him by his martial arts.
His study was a reflective koan: "There are many nations here, but there is only one Shaka." Meditating under the a large pine tree, this priest was said to have reached enlightenment. He came to understand the natural laws of nature and resolved a balance between his religion and his martial arts involving strategies of self-defense based upon no body contact.
It is recorded that this stranger left the temple in 1235 AD, dressed in white and wearing a black mask. With his leaving, all of the candle holders were mysteriously missing from Shaka-In. Shortly thereafter, a great fire took place in the main temple. Residents of the temple described a great vision and transmission of Shaka from the burning Buddha house to the great pine tree under which the stranger had been meditating. The temple would be rebuilt, but the spirit of the temple would reside within this great tree.
The existence of Shaka-In and of James' Mythology has always been the point of contention for the descendents of Kenpo and for the critics of the lineage. Shaka-In is real. It is now a national park and has received funding from local businesses to support its existence.
Shaka-In is often described as Ichi No Ishidan or the "Stone Stairs". The entrance to Shaka-In is a 3333 step stair case that is 2 km long, climbing 600 meters in altitude. The staircase is landmarked due to it being the longest staircase in Japan. The entrance is located at 32.343613, 130.492022 and can be found off highway 443 between highways 218 and 52 in Misato, Kumamoto Prefecture, Kyushu, Japan. The temple itself is about 45 minutes from Kumamoto Castle. The temple and stairs are known for their difficult climbs and an annual charity race to top in the fall of each year.
It should appear sufficient to the reader that James learned something in Japan and that he learned it most likely at Shaka-In or at least the surrounding region. He most probably did not learn special moves or secret techniques, but instead a solid general education with doctrine skewed to a philosophy and religion called Kosho. James states that were three attributes to the Kosho study-those in obligation to the people, to the warrior monks, and to the religious monks. Martial arts would be an aspect of this study as it was prominent not just at the temple, but in the region as a whole, noting the presence of Musashi's Cave.
The foundation of Kosho and Kenpo lie in understanding the koan of the first ancestor. As a martial artist, as a descendent of Kenpo and/or as a Christian ancestor, you may dismiss the statement based on its simplicity. However, there is a complexity in this statement that James teaches indirectly. The purpose of the next pages is to understand the world of James Mitose and the importance of the teaching.