History of the Sennenji
~leave behind the memory for posterity~

Let us gather the drops of precious memories before
they disappear in the flow of time

Please tell us a story 
about Sennenji

"Let us meet each other in the garden of Sennenji, again"  This was what we swore to each other and to my friends and my seniors just before we had to participate in the war. It was only me who could come back from the front alive. Since then, anytime I saw the roof of Sennenji, which is visible from anywhere in Watari, I  always remember my friends' and my seniors' faces and unintentionally crasp my hands in prayer, as recounted by a man in his nineties.

I was evacuated to Watari around 1945. I remember  a beautiful fragrant olive tree  in front of the priest's residence. It is amazing that I could still find it at the same place, as recounted by a woman, in her eighties.

On the morning of going to the war, there was a lot of people waiting at the Watari station to see us off. One man who was a head taller than the crowd was looking at me. I could see his face clearly. He was Ichion Oka , who was a chief preist of Sennenji. I remember the scene and what I felt that special day. My heart was filled with   appreciation, as recounted by a man, in his nineties.

During the busy farming season, Sennenji was opened as a free day care nursery.  When we went to the temple, our day was started by singing together a "Song of Sennenji".  Snack time was my favorite. Obasan,the wife of a priest, took biscuits from a big can and distributed one to every child. In those days, biscuits were very rare. I never forget that it was so great, as recounted by a woman in her eighties.


Obasan taught us how to dance.  She built a stage inside the main hall of the temple.   I remember the radiant mood when I danced in front of the audience, as recounted by a woman in her eighties.

There were swings and a playground slide in the garden of Sennenji. We all play in line and wait for our turn.  There was a pond in the shape of a gourd and a lot of fish swimming, as recounted by a man, in his seventies. 

There was a small space for the library at the cornor of the main hall.  I remember that I frequently visited that library during the summer holidays, as recounted by a  man in his seventies.

Sennenji garden was our playground.  We often visited there after school, as recounted by a man in his seventies.

Sennenji was opened as a day care nursery during the busy farming season, twice a year, for about a month each time.  A little soft ball which is the size of a baseball, was given as a prize for perfect attendance. One of the naughty boys took my ball. I told the story to Obasan, and she took back a ball for me, as recounted by a woman in her eighties.


At the Watari shrine festival, I was selected to be a member of a children's parade.  Sennenji kept several sets of special costumes for the children's parade.  Obasan put on the costume and makeup on for us.  We made a line an walked all the way from Sennenji to the Watari Shrine.  It was a long way.  I didn't know how I could make it, as recounted by a woman in her eighties.
A whole group of our family visited Sennenji on the first day of the Obon season with  new Kimono and footware.  On the ground of the temple, a lot of people were dancing around the tower which was built at the center of the ground. There were lots of people coming for the  Kannonsama festival too. There were many street stalls opened on both sides of a road  approached the temple. I was shopping and playing.  It was fun.  I was looking forward to it as recounted by a woman in her nineties.

On the night of Obon season, all members of our family went to our family grave in Sennenji with a lantern in each hand.  At our grave place, there was also a lantern with built in candle lighting.  It was a special day for me as recounted by a woman in her sixties.

Bon festival dance in Sennenji was very flamboyant.  My father was standing in the  tower, beating the big drum. I felt very proud of my father, as recounted by a woman in her sixties.



It was the end of the year of 1963.  Sennenji built Muentou in the form of a pyramid, constructed using tombstones that had been neglected and thus anyone had a chance to visit and mourn them again. We carried boiled water full of sake barrels by truck from one of the Dankasan’s sake reweries to the graveyard.  We dug up the neglected tombstones, one by one and brushed each of them carefully using the boiled water.  It was really a freezing cold day.  I remember that it really was tough work, as recounted by a man in his seventies.
I heard a story about the Kannonsama from old people a long time ago. You know that the Kannonsama is really big and it is the size of a  human. During the days of a long drought, farmers could do nothing but pray for rain. Finally, people placed a ring of logs at the center of the ground of Sennenji.  Kannonsama was taken out from the Kannondo and made to stand at the center of the ring of logs. The logs were then set on fire. Farmers prayed for rain. Believe it or not, it did rain, as recounted by a man in his eighties.
During the busy farming season, Sennenji was opened as a free day care nursery.  When we went to the temple, our day was started by singing together a "Song of Sennenji".  Snack time was my favorite. Obasan,the wife of a priest, took biscuits from a big can and distributed one to every child. In those days, biscuits were very rare. I never forget that it was so great, as recounted by a woman in her eighties.


Style of Funeral in the 1950s, 1970s and 1980s.
ーWatari and Yamamoto regionー

Style of Funeral

The way how to mourn their family member varies depending on regions.
In the 1960s, people hold funeral at their own home with the help of their neighbours.
The population who know of those days are decreasing.
We would like to write down before the memories are gone.
We interview three person to know about the style of funeral in Watari and Yamamoto region from 1960s to 1980s. 

(1) A man in his eighties told us the story.

I was born in Koya, Watari.

My grandfather passed away around 1955.

When he breathed his last breath, our family told his death to the leader of Koya first of all.

The leader told members of the group to tell this news to the neighbors and the family relatives.

The leader made several groups and allocated roles.

One group cleaned and tidied up the house so as to do the funeral service.

The other group prepared all the necessary utilities for the funeral, such as a coffin, a white cotton kimono for the body, and so forth.

Those days, we had to make everything by ourselves for the funeral.

The group of women prepared all the meals and dinners for all of us.

The first day, the monk was asked for Makurakyo, the service that chanted a sutra near the pillow of the deceased.

The wake was held a night before the funeral.

After the monk’s sutra chanting for the wake, all the attendees dined on a vegetarian dish.

At the morning of the funeral day, two or three Omoyaku who wore white happi went to the graveyard to dig a hole for the coffin.

At one o clock in the afternoon, the funeral service started at our own house.

After the funeral, the attendees were told to be line up in order. What to have in their hand was also ordered. A man who distributed treats to the neighbors who stood for seeing off my grandfather on the way to the temple was at the head of the line. This was followed by handmade bamboo flower stands each with a height of 1 meter, five color frags, banners with drawn animals’ heads, gold and silver artificial lotus flowers and so forth. The person at the end of the line followed the coffin.  Women who were relatives of the family covered their head with a towel size white cotton cloth.  

After coming back from the graveyard, a dinner with fish was served.

Every morning till the seventh day, we visited the grave and knocked the underground coffin by poking with the bamboo stick which was stuck into the gravesite.  This action was meant to greet the deceased.

On the seventh day, we invited all women who helped us and gave them meals. Small presents to express our gratitude were prepared, such as handkerchiefs, a pair of socks or aprons. 

Every seven days until the 49th day, we visited the grave every morning.

 

 

(2) A woman in her sixties told us a story of her step-grandfather in 1976.

She lives in Odaira, Yamamoto. 

On, the first day, when my step-grandfather died, we first reported the death to the leader of Odaira.

There were four groups in Odaira.  One of the groups which were members of ten, came to our place for cleaning and tidying up the house to prepare for the funeral. 

We asked the monk for Makurakyo.

On the second day. in the morning, the leader called two groups consisting of about 20 members.

One of the groups was going to visit our relatives and neighbors telling our funeral schedule in pairs.

The leader ordered the coffin from the undertaker.

making all sets of tools for the funeral, such as, bamboo candle stand, trays, portable gate, sets of straw foot wares for the relatives, the relative women’s scarf, bamboo flower vase and so on.

Women prepared the meals and sewed white cotton Kimono for my step-grandfather.

The family boiled water and prepared a big wooden tub to wash the body, and then put on the white cotton Kimono for him.

The wake was held at night.  A vegetarian dish was served.

On the third day, in the morning, we went to the crematory.

At lunch, the dish on a four-legged tray was served for all attendees.

At one o’clock in the afternoon, the funeral service started.

After the service, we all lined up and marched towards the graveyard.

On the way to the graveyard, there were people who put their hands together and saw my step-grandfather off.

We distributed treats to them. As we arrived the graveyard, we turned three times in a circle and then laid his ashes to rest in the grave.

We went back to our house. On the way back, we changed straw foot ware to the normal foot ware. The straw foot ware was left on the wayside.

The dinner served was Sashimi, grilled fish, two dishes of vegetables and wine.

 

The night of the sixth day was Otaiya. We served walnut Mochi to the attendees.

The seventh day and the twenty first day, we visited the grave and after that, we served light meals to the attendees.

The forty-ninth day, after visiting the grave, we served rice cakes to the attendees.

 

 

(3)A woman in her seventies told us about the funeral of an old woman who lived next door.

The place where she lived was Minammachi, Watari. 

It was around 1985.

On the first day, all members of the neighborhood were asked to come.

Women were responsible for the meals.

There was a cooking leader who knew everything about meals.

She wrote down the daily menu and hung it on the wall.

Men were making tools for the deceased woman.

They started sitting on the straw mat in front of the barn.

They all knew what to do. Young men learned from the elder people. How to make such and such was passed on to the next generation.

We used to make everything, but at that time the coffin and the white cotton kimono could be bought from the undertaker’s office.

On the night of the second day, the wake was held.

We served a vegetarian meal which is a rice dish cooked with glutinous rice, a miso-soup with taro in it and five other vegetable dishes. 

On the third day, in the morning, people went to the crematory.

We did not walk from the house to the grave, as had been customary in the past.

We had to prepare the lunch, so we stayed at the house and kept ourselves busy.

After coming back from the crematory, attendees took lunch.

At one o’clock, the funeral service started in her own house.

After the service, the dining ritual started. A four-legged tray was provided to each attendee.  The dishes were prepared by one of the fish shops in Watari.

After we laid her ashes to rest in the grave, the meal was served to everyone who had attended the funeral and helpers like me.  The Azuki rice, onishime, kinpira and the clear soup with chicken in it were served.

Every morning until the seventh day, we all visited the grave. The family of the deceased woman prepared rice dumplings and treats to serve us attendees.

Every seven days until the 49th day, we repeated the same routine.

Goshinkyo 
Ippen,the founder of Jisyu,travelled all over Japan to spread his teachings. Ippen's heir, who inherits Shonin's holy title, all did the same travel, even now.
This is called Goshinkyo.

Goshinkyo in Sennenji

5th October, 2009
ShinEn-shonin the 74th

10th June,1984
Isshin Shonin the 72nd
Because of the rain, participants were divided into two groups and the photos were taken.
10th June,1984
Isshin Shonin the 72nd

10th June,1984
Isshin Shonin the 72nd

4th September, 1954
Ryuho Shonin the 71st
The recorded history about Goshinkyo in Sennenji
in Edo period

1st December, 1848
Ichinen shonin the 57th

  • The following official document by the governor of Watari titled "Specification list for Goshinkyo in Sennenji" shows how the governor of Watari payed considerable attention to welcoming Ichinen Shonin's Goshinkyo on the 1st of December, 1848.
  • The detailed specification was written, such as dress code, division of roles, how to welcome them, menu for the dinner and how many people should dine together with them, and so forth.

  • Reference
    (1) "Kyodo Watari" by A Society for the Study for History of Watari,No.55,pp.52-59,1985.
    (2)"Yugyo-Shonin and Sennenji" by Tadashi Terashima
  • The detailed specification was written, such as dress code, division of roles, how to welcome them, menu for the dinner and how many people should dine together with them, and so forth.

お上人様をお迎えするにあたって、以下のような通達が亘理伊達家より出された記録が残っていました。

御親教における専念寺門内外諸役仕様
(嘉永元年12月1日)


  •  一、寺社奉公遠藤左太夫、志賀恆之助の両人麻上下にて出仕
       (若党草履取り上下着用三人一組)
     一、表門番として足軽二人、三ツ道具飾り
     一、上人御着の説は土下座し、御出立のときも同様とする。
     一、警固には御旗本両人が当る。
     一、殿堂前(専念寺本堂前)には
       御馳走役の家老、出入司、小姓頭をはじめ作業奉行、徒
       目付、幕役、火触、掃除方、大工棟梁、が籠出る。
     一、殿堂(専念寺本堂)には紋付御幕二張(昼夜共差置く)
       玄関には紋付提灯(昼夜差置)を提げる。
     一、着寺当日は、武頭忠之介(上下四人)及び月番の家老
       朝上下着用にてお見舞に参上のこと。
     一、上人着席には、火鉢、煙草盆、お菓子、煎茶を出す。
       給仕は小姓小川林之丞が当る。
     一、上人御着の晩に料理を進ぜらる。
       内容は香のもの外二汁五菜、御相伴十人位、
       御給仕役は
       丹野勇之進、樽場造之助、小川林之丞、黒川兼次郎、三橋善平  
       大衆方の御賄いは香のもの外三菜とし、給仕は麻上下着用、
       永田甚治、渡辺善助、日下貞治、管野留等
  • 参考資料   *『郷土わたり』亘理郷土史研究会  55号(1985)pp.52-56                            「遊行上人と専念寺」寺島正
  • 参考資料   *『郷土わたり』亘理郷土史研究会  55号(1985)pp.52-56                            「遊行上人と専念寺」寺島正

4th ~ 11th May, 1744
Fuson Shonin the 51st

  • The following report is an excerpt from  " Preaching journey of Yugyo 51st Fuson in Tohoku " by Fumio Tamamuro 

    This report is written based on the “Diary of Yugyo ” which is kept in Shoujyoukouji, the head temple of Jisyu.

     

  • We started Kakuda Senpukuji at 9 am, and arrived at Watari Sennenji at 11 am.  … … The governor of Watari was Date Awanokami.  They prepared everything completely. They built a new house for our stay. 10 straw rice bags, vegetables, food stuffs, charcoal sacks and so forth were brought to Sennenji one after the other.

    … … On 11th December, we started Sennenji at 7am, and arrived at Sendai Shinpukuji at 2 pm. … …"

     

  • This report also showed how the Shonin and his party was given special permission for the travel and were protected by the Tokugawa Shogunate. They travelled in numbers as large as a Daimyo.

  • Reference " Preaching journey of Yugyo 51st Fuson in Tohoku " by Fumio Tamamuro (Excerpt), Shogakuronso,76-2-209,1994.
  • We started Kakuda Senpukuji at 9 am, and arrived at Watari Sennenji at 11 am.  … … The governor of Watari was Date Awanokami.  They prepared everything completely. They built a new house for our stay. 10 straw rice bags, vegetables, food stuffs, charcoal sacks and so forth were brought to Sennenji one after the other.

    … … On 11th December, we started Sennenji at 7am, and arrived at Sendai Shinpukuji at 2 pm. … …"