On the Name “Honedera” (骨寺)

Finally, I would like to make a few brief remarks on the name “Honedera.” You can see in Illustration 1 the label 骨寺堂跡 (“Honederadō ato,” lit. “bone temple hall site”), referring to the site upon which a hall (dō) called Honedera was once situated. But since hone (骨) means “bone,” the real question is to what this character refers. Unfortunately, this is not an issue on which scholarly consensus has been reached. The locals uphold the tradition identifying the bones with the skull of Jikaku Daishi (Ennin, Tendai head abbot and legendary founder of Chūsonji and Mōtsūji Temples), but this narrative has been sorely challenged in the recent academic literature. Another theory attributes the bones to Renkō, the monk who served as the Chūsonji Sutra Repository steward during the years this village was developed as the temple’s estate. However, there is no evidence to support this supposition. Currently, Ōishi Naomasa’s theory that the bones belong to multiple individuals, and that they were gathered here for veneration is more popular. Similar cases can be seen at other religious sites like Yamadera (Risshakuji), a famous temple in Yamagata, though in the case of Yamadera it was more the teeth than bones that were gathered and venerated. According to Ōishi’s theory, like Yamadera, when local people died, some of their bones were brought to this hall. Excavations have recently begun in this area in preparation for World Heritage inscription, and hopefully archaeological findings will shed some light on the nature of the “bones.”
There are, of course, many things we do not yet know about Honedera, but I would like to stress that it is clear beyond reasonable doubt that the scene portrayed in these illustrated maps is that of the original landscape of Japan’s agricultural village.

Q & A

I can see the paddies scattered around in the maps, but could you please explain how the rest of the valley was used?

In a blank on the map you can see the notation for a rice paddy (田), but it appears that this is a later addition to the map. Perhaps this indicates that the blank areas were just that: undeveloped fields. Let me add that rice is most carefully recorded because of its importance to the revenue collectors, but in actual fact the villagers also had dry fields, chestnut copses, and probably engaged in hunting. I agree with your suggestion that it is misleading to discuss only rice.

In the area around Honedera, previously the jōrisei land-use system was implemented and tumulus culture did not penetrate the area. In some cases, later town grids were simply superimposed upon the grid pattern of land division imposed by the jōrisei system, but I wonder whether it was because the tumulus culture didn’t reach this far that this kind of spatial structure remained. Also, I wonder whether the Unane Shrine persisted because of a different, more thoughtful approach to the blending and harmonization of old and new cultures than that we see in western Japan.

From a landscape design perspective, the entire village was originally visible from its entrance at Kagikake, with the sacred peak of Kurikomayama in the background. That axis was basic to the village’s layout, with Unane Shrine and its sacred spring at the center. When Buddhism was imported, Masaka Shindō was opened and Fudō no Iwaya consecrated. Unane continued to be worshipped, but its inner sanctum was transferred from Kurikomayama to Fudō no Iwaya. This means a complete reshuffling of the village’s spatial axes, but as we saw in Illustration 3, the obito and original families hung on tenaciously. Even in the Kamakura period, after the fall of Hiraizumi, the “new” villagers were still referred to as tsukuridabun, indicating their lower status. Additionally, the ancient leadership position of the obito remained, as did Unane Shrine. So despite the appearance of dramatic change, I think it is interesting to realize that these rule-bound institutions from old village life lived on.

Around when did Buddhism begin to influence the old environment of Honedera?

In the twelfth century, famous temples and shrines from around the capital such as Mt. Hiei’s Enryakuji Temple and the Kumano Shrine began sending out agents to the provinces. These holy men worked as an organized unit, moving back and forth between the capital and the rural villages as they taught the provincial landlords the techniques of estate management and temple construction. This is the same process by which Hiraizumi’s temples, Chūsonji and Mōtsūji, were built. These men took the leadership role in developing the rural villages, changing them. The point is that at this time the capital and the provinces became linked by these men, and this represented a major turning point from a world order in which things concentrated only in the capital to one of greater equality between Kyoto and its realm, one in which the ideas and knowledge of the capital flowed rapidly into the agricultural villages, changing them and also leading to the rise of cities in the provinces.

My name is Nukui Tōru. I’m in the Architecture and Environmental Design department. I’ve been thinking that there’s little cooperative research between our fields, but that I’d like to have the opportunity to change that and work together with you. I wonder if there might be something we could contribute to the World Heritage nomination, and I was very excited and interested to listen to your talk today.

We historians, too, have only recently become able to talk about the relationship between our field and urban planning or landscape design. As for Hiraizumi, in terms of urban planning, first Chūsonji was built, and the lords’ manors are lined up as a sort of accompaniment to it. The administrative center of Hiraizumi was built on a direct line from the Konjikidō, the golden hall of Chūsonji, which serves as a mausoleum for the dynasty’s rulers. This was copied in Kamakura, where the bakufu headquarters were placed on a direct path from the tomb of the warrior government’s founder Minamoto no Yoritomo, and again in Sendai where the mausoleum of Sendai’s great lord Date Masamune lines up directly with Sendai Castle. This idea of standing the ancestors face-to-face with the living is extremely Japanese. And we ought to consider it in looking at the development of castle towns in later Japan. For Honedera, too, cosmology and landscape design are on the table now for debate. I’m sure that people are doing the same in environmental design, and I’m really looking forward to hearing about the results of such debate.

Web site of Tohoku University of Arts and Design
Special Lecture Series/Rediscovering the Landscape of Tohoku: Part 5 “Landscape of the Middle Ages - On the original landscape of an agricultural village as portrayed in contemporary illustrated maps”
May, 2006

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