Musashi Miyamoto is known as a master swordsman. The ‘Duel of Ganryujima’ where he faced off with Kojiro Sasaki is extremely well-known.
But, it’s a lesser known fact that he practiced ascetics in Yaotsu.
Daisenji Temple, located about a 10-minute walk north of downtown Yaotsu, is where Musashi did his training. Daisenji Temple is known as one of the three Mino temples along with Eihoji Temple (Tajimi city) and Shogenji Temple (Minokamo city). It is an ancient temple with a prosperous history of producing many exceptional high priests in the Myoshinji Sects.
It is said that the temple was moved to its current location during the Edo period and without facing any big disasters, it remains as it appeared then.
Many camellias grow on either side of the path that leads into the Ichinomon gate. They say that long ago it was also called the 'Camellia Temple'. Visitors enjoy these flowers in the winter months when there aren’t many flowers blooming.
About 400 years ago, Musashi, who was training with the sword, also practiced Zen ascetics under Takuan Osho of Kyoto. Musashi came to Daisenji Temple under the instruction of Takuan Osho. The young Musashi, who suddenly came to the temple to practice ascetics, sat in Zen meditation for three days and three nights on a stone in front of the gate in order to show his enthusiasm. The 8th generation Gudo Kokushi, protector of the temple at the time, allowed Musashi to enter the temple and that’s when he finally began his training.
The stone that Musashi meditated on still remains in front of the Daisenji temple gate. A picture of a tiger still remains in the temple that is said to have been painted by Musashi. Musashi’s painting also seemed to please Kazan Watanabe,a famous warrior/painter, so perhaps he was also a talented painter.
Musashi was known as a master swordsman, but he was also an artist. It is interesting to think about what he thought about while meditating on the stone. Did he pray to become strong? Or perhaps he wanted to become a virtuous person.
The town of Yaotsu was developed thanks to the benefits of Kiso River. However, it has also suffered damaged from many floods. Perhaps that is why there have always been so many believers in this town where there are more than 10 temples.
Currently the 23rd generation priest minds the temple. There are not as many people who live out their faith in all of their daily activities as there once were but at Daisenji, they are trying many things to expand their acceptance with the hope of remaining in people’s hearts and minds with the changing times.
One example of this is the early morning Zen meditation sessions held on the first and fifth day of each month. After an hour of meditation, sutra transcription and a lecture, morning porridge is served. Daisenji doesn’t only support those who are related. Instead, the temple is open to all. Also, the wife of the 24th generation priest (currently assistant chief priest) is a yoga instructor and holds classes 7-8 days a month. Many people in the town join in, especially the young housewives in town.