HOME OF THREE SPIRITUAL STREAMS
the BUDDHIST purge
The Buddhist Purge (haibutsukishaku 廃仏毀釈) is a politico-religious movement that took place under the government of Meiji's Restoration, during a period when nationalist resents peaked and when people sought a true Japanese identity. As Buddhism was regarded as a "bastard" religion imported from the outside, people turned towards Shinto, considered as the "real Japanese religion". In 1868, March 28th, Meiji government proclamed the national interdiction of places that possessed a double Shinto-Buddhist identity, a trait that used to be the norm for centuries in several religious sites in Japan (also known as shinbutsushûgô 神仏習合). Since then, Buddhist icons, statues, paintings, writings, buildings, have been destroyed in such places so they could entirely become shinto sites.
Tsuruoka was no exception during Haibutsukishaku, but there are still a lot of places remaining that present both traits.
For instance, the buddhist icons in Mt. Haguro's Five-Storied Pagoda have been replaced by a shintô god's statues, as well as the niô 仁王 buddhist gods's giant statues that were keeping Mt. Haguro's entrance gate (Zuishinmon 随神門) have been replaced by shintô statues of Toyoiwamado no kami 豊石窓神 and Kushiiwamado no kami 櫛石窓神.
A practice born in Shingon Buddhist Temples, and that is particularly noticeable around Mt. Yudono. Monks who sought to become Buddha in their present body (main principle of Shingon school), endured a long process of hunger and dehydration to dry their flesh out and mummify their bodies by themselves.
THE COEXISTENCE OF SHINTO AND BUDDHISM IN tsuruoka
Shinbutsushugo 神仏習合 is a term that designates the coexisting relation between Shinto and Buddhism.
Shinbutsushugo was strong in Tsuruoka, since it is itself the foundation for shugendo (see section below), but it is still visible nowadays in any commoner's house: the Buddhist praying altar (butsudan 仏壇) and the Shinto praying altar (kamidana 神棚) are both in the same room: one on top of another, while the norm in Japan would want them to be separated.
SHONAI SHRINE AND TSURUOKA's military history
Shonai Shrine was built on former Tsuruogaoka-jo 鶴ヶ岡城's foundations. Tsurugaoka-jo was the castle of Shonai Clan's leaders: Sakai Family. This clan had such a well developed military force they didn't loose a war since they came to power, until Boshin War exploded.
For this reason, military and samurai culture was flourishing in Shonai region, and a clan school was opening in early 19th century: Chidokan. When Boshin War ended, it marked the end of the samurai system and Tsurugaoka-jo was demolished. But Shonai Jinja shrine continues to tell Sakai Clan's glory in several festivals and events, such as Shonai Taisai festival.
What is Shugendo?
Shugendo sites in Tsuruoka
Zao Gongen 蔵王権現 is the divinity venerated in Shugendo religion, even though he is from Buddhist origins. He is supposed to be an entire Japanese buddhist god, that does not find his origins in Indian Buddhism.
He first appeared to En no Ozunu during his mountain practice in Mt. Kinpu (Nara Prefecture). He is the god of Undying Truth, the All-Mighty god who possesses all the strength of the universe.
EN NO OZUNU
En no Ozunu 役小角 was a sorcerer who lived during the 7th century and died (presumably) in 701 who actively promoted the fusion of Buddhism and Shinto (shinbutsushûgô 神仏習合) and performed meditation in mountains.
At the age of 17, he started studying the art of conjuration in Gangôji Temple. His sorcering skills were so good rumors said he cured Fujiwara no Kamatari (a politician who frequently advised Emperor Tenji) from a long time disease. But his excellence also led to his fall down. According some hearsays, he could curse someone with his only words or summon demons to fulfill revenge on people who did not follow him, which wasn't at Emperor Monmu's tastes at all. He got exiled two years before his death. He is said to be the founder of shugendo and the inventor of mountain training. He made Dewa Sanzan a holy site of shugendo after it was discovered by Prince Hachiko (see Dewa Sanzan to read more).
Photo credits go to : Sailko (link)