1st January - New Year’s Service (Hatsumōde)
It is traditional to visit the temple at the beginning of the New Year to express gratitude for the past year, and make wishes for the new year. On New Year’s Day we hold a special service to express our respect to the Buddha, Nichiren Shonin and our ancestors. We also pray for world peace, a good harvest, prosperity for the temple, its members and their families throughout the coming year. After the service a special medicinal Sake is served.
3rd February - Season Division (Setsubun)
Setsubun literally means “season division”. According to the Chinese solar calendar, February 3rd marks the last day of winter and the beginning of spring. As Setsubun marks a new beginning, we pray for good health and protection against misfortune in the upcoming year. After a special ceremony we throw blessed roasted soy beans to chase away evenly and welcome good fortune for the coming year.
15th February - The Buddha’s Parinirvāṇa Day
Śākyamuni Buddha entered into Nirvāṇa on the day of the full moon in February. The Buddha told his disciple Ānanda to inform the people of Kuśinagara where he was staying at that time that he would pass away during the coming night. His last words were:
“After I pass away, make yourself your own light, don’t rely on others. Make the Dharma your light, don’t rely on others.” “All conditioned and compounded things have the nature of decay and disintegration. With steadfast mindfulness, endeavour diligently for your own liberation.”
After 45 years of preaching, Śākyamuni Buddha passed away , entering into Nirvāṇa, perfect tranquility, at the age of 80.
16th February - Nichiren Shōnin’s Birthday
Our founder, Nichiren Shōnin, was born in Kominato in the Province of Awa (present-day Chiba Prefecture) on 16th February, 1222. His father was called Nukina Shigetada and his mother, Umegiku. He was named “Zennichimaro” at birth. It is said that several lovely miracles happened when he was born - many white lotus flowers bloomed in the bay, a great number of fish appeared in the sea and a spring of water gushed out in front of his parents’ home.
Other Shore Week (O-Higan)
During O-Higan week, in the days surrounding the Spring and Autumn Equinoxes, a time when it is said that human beings are naturally more spiritually inclined, we emphasise Buddhist practice and study in order to reach “Higan” or the “other shore” of enlightenment. We give special attention to the practice of the Six Paramitas during this week:
1. Giving - Give to others what you can: time, money, labour
2. Precepts - Watch your behaviour
3. Patience - Be patient, keep calm and don’t get angry
4. Endeavour - Do your best in your work and Buddhist Practice
5. Meditation - Chant the Odaimoku to keep your mind calm
6. Wisdom - Consider what is the turn, and see things as they are
During O-Higan week we also hold a special Segaki ceremony, or the “offering for hungry ghosts.” Segaki is an extremely powerful ceremony to give peace to suffering spirits, especially Hungry Ghosts, by offering them food, water, and the Buddha’s teachings. It is especially important to give offerings of (vegetarian) food at this time in order to make the Hungry Ghosts peaceful and satisfied.
8th April - The Buddha’s Birthday (Hanamatsuri)
About 2,500 years ago, a prince of the Śākya clan was born on 8th April at Lumbini Garden, located in present-day Nepal near the Indian border. His father, King Śuddhodana, and his mother, Queen Maya, named him Siddhartha. It is said that the Buddha stood upon birth, walked seven steps and said, with his right hand raised toward heaven, “In heaven and on earth, I alone am honoured.” We celebrate the Buddha’s birthday by holding the Hanamatsuri (literally flower festival) ceremony. At the service, we build a miniature hall called hanamido decorated with flowers, place the statue of an infant Buddha pointing to heaven and earth in the centre, and pour sweet tea over the statue with a small ladle.
28th April - Establishment of Nichiren Shu (Rikkyo Kaishu)
On the morning of 28th April, 1253, Nichiren Shōnin, when he was age 32, climbed up to the top of a hill called “Asahigamori” on Mt. Kiyosumi , and facing the rising sun over the Pacific Ocean, chanted the Sacred Title of “Namu Myoho Renge Kyo” ten times, vowing to save all sentient beings with the Lotus Sūtra. From that time on, Nichiren Shōnin devoted his life to spreading the teaching of the Lotus Sūtra and the Odaimoku, and that day became the day that Nichiren Shu (the Nichiren Tradition) was born.
12th May - Izu Exile
Nichiren Shōnin submitted his treatise entitled Rissho Ankoku-ron (Treatise on Spreading Peace Throughout the Country by Establishing the True Dharma) to the Kamakura Shogunate on 16th July, 1260. On 12th May 1261, without any investigation, the government exiled him to Ito, on Izu Peninsula. He left Kamakura in a small boat in the morning of 12th May, with only a few officers guarding him. However, the boat drifted from its course towards Ito harbour, and ended up in Kawana harbour nearby.
The boat couldn’t reach them shore, so the guards left Nichiren Shōnin on an offshore rock. Miraculously, he was saved by a fisherman named Funamori Yasuburo. Yasaburo and his wife became very dedicated followers of Nichiren Shonin and believers in the Lotus Sūtra. A temple was later built where their house once stood.
13th-16th August - Obon
During Obon, when the gap between this world and the spirit world is smaller than usual, our ancestor’s spirits return to their beloved one’s homes. At this time we express our gratitude to them by visiting their grave, praying for their peace, and making offerings of seasonal fruits, vegetables, flowers and sweets
27th August - Matsubagayatsu Persecution
On the night of August 27th, 1260, a ruthless mob crept through the darkness towards Nichiren Shōnin’s hermitage in Matsubagayatsu (Pine Tree Valley). The mob, determined to burn down the hermitage with Nichiren Shōnin inside, threw burning torches onto the thatched roof, however Nichiren Shōnin was able to escape. According to legend, a white monkey miraculously appeared before him and guided him into the mountain behind, leading him to safety.
12th September - Tatsunokuchi Persecution
Having been proved right in his prediction of foreign invasion when Mongol envoys arrived in Japan in 1268, Nichiren Shōnin continued his efforts to persuade the shogunate to change their ways amid growing tension in the country surrounding the Mongol threats. As part of the shogunate’s efforts to quell dissidents, Nichiren Shōnin was arrested on spurious charges on 12th September, 1271. While the official sentence was exile to the island of Sado, Nichiren Shōnin was illegally taken to the execution ground at Tatsunokuchi that same night, to be beheaded. Fortunately, due to the appearance of a miraculous light in the sky, the execution as called off at the last minute. This event was a major turning point in Nichiren Shōnin’s life.
10th October - Sado Persecution
After Nichiren Shōnin escaped execution at Tatsunokuchi, he was exiled to Sado Island on 10th October, 1271. He remained there for three years.
13th October - Oeshiki
On the way from Mt. Minobu travelling to the hot spring at Hatachi to cure his illness, Nichiren Shōnin stopped to rest at the residence of Lord Ikegami in Tokyo. There, his eventful 60-year life ended peacefully surrounded by his disciples and followers on the morning of 13th October 1282. At that moment, the ground quaked and cherry blossoms bloomed out of season. It is traditional for Nichiren Shu temples to decorate their halls with paper cherry flowers at this time of year to mark Nichiren Shōnin’s passing and celebrate his life.
11th November - Komatsubara Persecution
In 1264, Nichiren Shōnin returned to the village where he was born in Awa Province to see his sick mother after an absence of eleven years. Unfortunately, when he arrived at the old house it was too late, and his mother had already passed away. However, he prayed for his mother by chanting the Odaimoku and Lotus Sūtra, and miraculously she awakened and was able to live for another four years. Following this miracle, many local people came to believe in his teachings.
One day Kudo Yoshitaka, the Lord of the region, invited Nichiren Shōnin to his residence. On the way, on the evening of 11th November, Nichiren Shōnin and his retainers were attacked in a pine tree field (Komatsubara) by Tojo Kagenobu and 100 of his followers who believed in the Nembutal teaching. One of Nichiren Shonin’s disciples and Lord Yoshitaka were killed, and Nichiren Shōnin was seriously injured on his forehead, but was able to escape.
8th December - The Buddha’s enlightenment (Jodo-e)
Prince Siddhartha left his castle and travelled all over to seek the truth of life. He engaged in severe training for six years, but could not find any answers. He realised that the various practices he had undertaken did not hold the answers he sought, so he switched to a more moderate way of practice - the Middle Way. After seven days of meditation, in the early morning of 8th December, the prince attained Supreme Perfect Enlightenment and became the Buddha, the Awakened One.