February 16, 2021
800th Anniversary of Nichiren Shonin’s birth
On February 15th and 16th, 2021, the 800th anniversary celebration ceremony of Nichiren Shonin’s birth was held at Tanjoji Temple in Chiba Prefecture, near the place of his birth. Legend says that, at his birth, a natural spring shot up from the ground, blue lotus flowers bloomed in the sea and a huge school of sea bream jumped up above the surface of the sea.
There is a Japanese expression, “Haru no Arashi,” which means spring storm. On February 15, a spring storm with heavy rain and strong winds started off the event.
Stone lanterns and alcoves on the path leading up to the main hall of the temple were all adorned with Japanese paper flower lanterns, hand-made by local area temple wives, which gave off a mystic blue light. Young local fishermen and followers carried a statue of the child Nichiren Shonin, enshrined in a sacred palanquin, and placed it in the main hall alter.
The 800th anniversary grand ceremony took place the following day under a clear and sunny sky and was officiated by the Honorable Rev. Nissho Kanno, Archbishop of Nichiren Shu, Chief Abbot of Ikegami Honmonji Temple. Many Shomyoshi, specialists in Nichiren Shu ceremonies, participated in this memorable ceremony from all over Japan while young priests of the Southern Chiba district did suigyo, water purification, and prayed for the end of the pandemic. The attendees were deeply moved by this ceremony.
Due to COVID-19, this was the first time a traditional Nichiren Shu ceremony was done online with 22 Kokusai Fukyosho attending from all around the world. Huge video screens were set up in the main hall and also outside for followers who could not enter while keeping social distance. The attendees and people who participated online joined in unison to chant the Odaimoku and express their happiness in celebrating the 800th anniversary of the birth of Nichiren Shonin.
Archbishop Kanno declared to all those attending, “Let there be Peace of Mind for us and serenity for others. Let us call for Rissho, Established Peace, for the whole world.”
Chief Administrator Hosei Nakagawa added, “The crisis that mankind is facing at present and the devastation of our minds will be saved by reciting the Odaimoku in unison with the priests and lay members. We are determined to carry out the will of Nichiren Shonin.”
Board member at Tanjoji
From the past, fishermen from Choshi, Mamemba, and Otaki in Chiba Prefecture have been supporting Tanjoji Temple and other temples in the area. Whenever we have an abundant catch, we donate money to the temples to renovate or rebuild them. Due to COVID-19, we have fewer local attendees for this memorable celebration. Even so, we were able to invite many priests from many parts of Japan, and the media made a wonderful broadcast of the grand service. I regret that more people could not come to this event, but it was good to see the familiar faces of priests from our community preparing for the event and doing suigyo to contain the pandemic.
On the 15th, it rained so hard that the bamboo lantern display and fireworks had to be canceled. Afterwards, I picked up the sange, paper lotus petals, which the priests had strewn on the path leading to the main hall. I realized that it would be another 100 years before this kind of event would take place again. This made me realize how fortunate I was to experience this.
Follower from Yokohama
I lost my father two years ago, so my mother and I decided to make a pilgrimage to Minobusan Kuonji Temple, Ikegami Honmonji Temple, and Tanjoji Temple. Because of the pandemic, we were not able to visit Tanjoji Temple until today. My mother is getting old and weak. If we had missed this opportunity, we might never have been able to complete our pilgrimage. I am worried about COVID-19, but I am glad we are here today!
There would have been many more people attending this ceremony if it had not been for COVID-19. The anniversary date is February 16th, but we are looking forward to visitors throughout the year. I heard from some people that it was risky to hold an event at a time like this, but we who were born listening to the Odaimoku and raised with a Nichiren Shu background find this 800th year anniversary very important. We were surprised and very pleased to hear that the ceremony was being broadcast online and that Nichiren Shu News would cover it. This means that the ceremony is not just a local event but known to people throughout the world.