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Rokugo Manzan -A Heritage of Religious Acceptance- *

Date:2019/5/31

No words are more important in understanding the Kunisaki Peninsula than "Rokugo Manzan." The term refers both to this area and the culture that was spawned and flourished here. Rokugo literally means six (roku) regions (go), a reference to six communities on the peninsula that were separated by mountain ranges. The characters for manzan can be read as "mountainous," but actually refer to the innumerable places of worship in the region that range in scope from a particular rock on the side of a mountain trail to age-old centers of Buddhist learning. It was here that the syncretism of various religious beliefs developed over the centuries to create the unique culture of Kunisaki.

Sharing Space and Deities "Shinbutsu Shugo"

On this peninsula, sometime in the eighth and ninth centuries, Esoteric Buddhism first came to coexist along with the older beliefs of mountain worship. This began at Usa Jingu Shrine in the neighboring city of Usa, which despite being one of the country's most important shrines is surprisingly little known. Here the two religions found enough in common to share certain deities and even the same grounds for their places of worship, a practice that spread across the region. The result was an eclectic mix of doctrines and precepts where, for example, oni-legendary ogres with origins in pre-Buddhist times-found a central place in Buddhist festivals. Strikingly designed masks, from the primitive to the elaborate, have long been used as the embodiment of oni and can still be seen at some local festivals in ceremonies meant to bring luck and ward off evil.

To Educate and Proselytize

At one time, over sixty-five temples dotted this peninsula, divided roughly into three areas that specialized in different functions: the temples in the west focused on studying, those in the central area taught ascetic training, and those on the eastern side concentrated on spreading the word of Buddhism. While the numbers have dropped, thirty-one temples belonging to the Tendai sect of Esoteric Buddhism can still be found here today, and the aura of spirituality that defines Rokugo Manzan permeates every inch of the area.