Remember those mythology articles released back when SMT 4 FINAL wasn’t already old news? I figured two years is perhaps a tad too long even for my levels of procrastination, so I decided to get them done once and for all. This is also a pretty interesting article, so let’s hope it’s a good sign…Anyway!
If you were wondering what’s up with all the spooky stuff going on in Tokyo or are into conspiracy theories about Akechi Mitsuhide, then this is the perfect article for you. If not…well, it’s still an interesting insight into some Buddhist protection rituals and a conspiracy theory about Akechi Mitsuhide.
Previous topic: Adramelech and pagan demons.
How real historical people became part of legend
- stories that were turned into legend have been passed down since immemorial times, whether people had the knowledge of writing or not;
- there were a lot of legends that were written down once writing was mastered (Japan: Kojiki, Nihon shoki);
- Kojiki was completed in about 712 AD, corresponding to the Nara period (ancient capital Nara);
- Japan calls the period until these times 上代 (joudai, ancient times), more of a literary term: until then gods were considered to have been real and dwelt on earth;*
- the terms 神代 (jindai, age of the gods) or 神世 (kamiyo) basically denote the period before the 天孫降臨 (tensonkourin, descent on earth of Amaterasu’s grandson, Ninigi no mikoto);**
- the further we descend into ancient history, the rarer the records are, and we end up with vague stories resembling legends more than anything;
- Shoutoku Taishi, for example, who lived during the Asuka period, earlier than the Nara period, was more of a real person than gods like Amaterasu or Susanoo and had his portrait on the 10000 yen bill, but tales about him also had mythical elements, and nowadays Shoutoku Taishi tends to be considered more of a fictional character;
- it is believed that mythical people like the onmyouji lived during the Heian period, following the Nara period, and they can be found in fiction like taiga drama even nowadays (Taira no Kiyomori);
- we have Abe no Seimei as a famous onmyouji, but claiming even Taira no Kiyomori was one is an exaggeration; there aren’t any reasons to deny his very existence though;
- his parents, date of birth and life have been recorded, but legend exaggerated his abilities (‘He was actually a child of gods, so he had supernatural powers’)***;
- there were also historical figures of the Middle Ages who became legendary characters;
- their popularity among people thanks to tales and plays was translated into additional mythical episodes;
- historical records aren’t perfect either and there are many cases of unknown birth dates, places or parent names, so they were supplemented by guesses, speculation and broad interpretations, giving birth to these so-called mysterious superheroes;
The mysterious Buddhist priest Tenkai
- lived at the end of the Sengoku period – beginning of the Edo period;
- was a Tendai priest and worked for Tokugawa Ieyasu;
- known as the one who did the town planning for Edo, adopting the feng shui technique;
- it is said that he constructed a spiritual barrier, placing Kaneiji in Ueno (north-east) and moving Zoujouji to its current location (south-west), as seen from from the Edo Castle;****
- Tenkai’s birth is one of the mysteries surrounding him;
- it is said he left home when he was only 13 or 14, but nothing had been recorded before that;
- he was chief priest in a temple now known as Kita-in from the city of Kawagoe, Saitama Prefecture, but back then it is seems he was already a confidant of Tokugawa Ieyasu and had also participated in the planning of the battle of Sekigahara;
- it is believed that Ieyasu’s decision to install the shogunate was also done at the suggestion of Tenkai;
- the native Tendai Mikkyou rituals for the protection of the country were implemented on all sides of the Edo Castle, but the four directions of Edo were protected by the four Chinese gods (Genbu in the north, Seiryuu in the east, Suzaku in the south and Byakko in the west), while the conception of the guardian Goshiki Fudou (five-coloured Fudou) was based on the ancient Chinese wu xing, showing that, like Nara’s capital Heijoukyou and Kyoto’s Heiankyou, Edo had also adopted the Chinese city planning;
- evil entering through the kimon (north-east) and urakimon (south-west) was also adopted from China, same as feng shui;
- most of these spiritual defenses were built during the time of the third Tokugawa shogun, Iemitsu, when Ieyasu had already died;
- Tenkai’s birth year had been unknown from the very beginning, but it is assumed he lived much longer than the usual lifespan of his times, surpassing 100 years of age at the time of his death in 1643;
- the spiritual defenses surrounding the Edo Castle are also called the Edo magic square, but it is actually the Shijokobuccho mandala, a circular mandala, transmitted by Ennin, the disciple of the founder of the Tendai sect, the monk Saichou;
- this mandala used during prayers and austerities for country defence and disaster prevention is formed of many Buddha arranged in several concentric circles and can also be found in Rinnouji, the Nikkou temple where Tenkai was chief priest;
- we can therefore presume that the spiral-shaped moat of the Edo Castle resembles this mandala;
The Akechi Mitsuhide Theory
- Tenkai’s unknown origin, as well as other details of his life, also led to the theory that he was Akechi Mitsuhide (明智光秀), the general who betrayed Oda Nobunaga at Honnouji;
- after Tokugawa Ieyasu’s death, he received his posthumous name, Toushou Daigongen, and was enshrined at Nikkou Toushouguu; the scenery that can be viewed from the temple was named Akechidaira (明智平) by Tenkai;
- the wet nurse of the third shogun,Tokugawa Iemitsu, was Lady Kasuga, the daughter of Saitou Toshimitsu, a chief vassal of Akechi Mitsuhide; for Iemitsu’s mother, Oda Nobunaga’s niece Okou, she was basically the equivalent of a bitter enemy, and it is presumed her rise in ranks took place thanks to Tenkai;
- Tenkai received the posthumous name of Jigen Daishi (慈眼大師); there is a Kyoto temple named Jigenji containing Mitsuhide’s mortuary tablet and wooden statue;
- even though Mitsuhide is known to posterity as a traitor, there are opposing views, not only due to his devotion to his wife, serious and kind personality, but also because the reason of his betrayal has remained a mystery for centuries;
- it has been however speculated, due to the discovery of some letters, that his friendship with Chosokabe Motochika caused him to prevent Nobunaga’s attack on the Shikoku island, Chosokabe’s domain.
*上代 (joudai) is basically the period when gods used to rule the earth, until Emperor Kanmu’s reign; 上 (ue, up) can be read as both kami and jou, while 代 (yo, world, age) can be read as shiro or yo -> the homonym 神代 (kamishiro, age of gods) with 神 (kami) meaning god. 上代 can also be read as kamiyo and has the homonym 神世 (kamiyo), with 世 (yo) meaning world or age.
**wiki tells us this is used in Japanese mythology in particular, the period ending in about 660 BCE.
***the original wording is kami no otoshidane, which basically means ‘a god’s bastard child’ (well, actually it means ‘god’s fallen seed’, but, you know…); why this? one theory has it that Kiyomori was actually Emperor Shirakawa’s son and since all emperors were Amaterasu’s descendants, that would have made him one too.
****the terms for north-east and south-west are 鬼門 (kimon) and 裏鬼門 (urakimon), which mean ‘demon gate’ and ‘rear demon gate’ and are used to denote unlucky directions; more details here; have a silly map too.