Shonenji Temple in Takachiho
A fascinating past and present
When Genbu-jo, the castle of the Yoshimura clan, was destroyed during an 1578 invasion, family member Tanio Yoshimura had a temple built as a form of reparation.
Shonenji, the resulting temple, now stands in Takachiho more than 400 years later as a rock-solid presence in the local community – as well as a scene of growing international connections.
Belonging to the Pure Land sect of Buddhism, which urges its followers to tread the path of compassion, the temple is headed today by Junsho Yoshimura – the 17th-generation top priest. His wife Victoria, originally from England, is also a senior priest.
On the evening of our visit, the Yoshimuras hosted a lively community dinner in the temple lodge. The assembled party included their teenaged daughter and her friend, a couple of employees from the town government, and two individuals who had come to give workshops at the temple on art therapy and child poverty.
“We brought everyone here together tonight to help create new relationships," Junsho Yoshimura said over a toast in the lodge's dining room, as we drank local shochu and ate a delicious dinner of curry and yudofu (boiled tofu) that had been cooked in the temple's communal kitchen and served at its irori (traditional sunken hearth). “That is a big part of what we do here at Shonenji."
Available for overnight stays, the stylish lodge designed by Victoria is accentuated with pottery and dimple art (similar to stained glass) created by local artisans.
Taking us to the main temple hall, Victoria explained that the folk art paintings adorning the ceiling date back around 100 years, and include the names of donors from that time period.
“The yokagura (traditional all-night Shinto dance festival) season between November and February is very busy here, and the day after the local dance, we have a big parade in town with horses," she explained. “It's a really festive time."
For information on reserving a group workshop or overnight stay at the lodge, see the following links. You may also send an e-mail to email@example.com.