Otani Kosho (大谷光照)

Kosho OTANI (November 1, 1911 - June 14, 2002) was a Japanese religious figure. He was the 23rd chief priest of Jodo Shinshu (the True Pure Land Sect of Buddhism) Hongan-ji School. His title was that of count. His imina (a real personal name) was Kosho. His homyo (a name given to a person who enters the Buddhist priesthood) of Jodo Shinshu sect was Shonyo.


He was born in Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture, as the oldest son of Komyo OTANI (Jonyo) who was a younger brother of Kozui OTANI (Kyonyo), the 22nd chief priest of Hongan-ji Temple. His mother was Kinuko, the seventh daughter of Michitaka KUJO. Kinuko's older sister was Setsuko who became Empress of Emperor Taisho (Empress Teimei).

In 1914, Kozui retired from the post of chief priest of Hongan-ji Temple under the influence of a bribery scandal of Nishi Hongan-ji Temple. Though Kozui's younger brother Komyo had the right of succession to the chief priest of Hongan-ji Temple, Kozui requested Komyo to waive his right and Komyo accepted his older brother's request. Kosho, a grandheir to Kozui, was then two years old, so that entourages of Otani family, like Sonjo CHIKAMATSU, kept the office of deputy chief abbot in four generations. In 1927 when Kosho entered the Buddhist priesthood at the age of 15, he succeeded to the position of Kozui and became the 23rd chief priest.

Subsequently, Kosho graduated the University of Tokyo (the department of oriental history of the faculty of literature) in 1935, after studying at the former Daiichi Koto Gakko (the First High School). In April of 1937, he married with Kishi, the oldest daughter of Saneatsu TOKUDAIJI. Since then, he was at the helm of the religious community of Hongan-ji school for 50 years. In 1977, he retired from Monshu (a chief of religious sect) and became Zenmon (a former chief of religious sect).

Activities during the war time

Youthful chief, Kosho, guided the religious community during the war in the Showa period. In 1933, he worked for revision of the collection of Shomyo (Buddhist liturgical chants).
In 1941, he revised the religious system of his community by deserting its conventional custom to deny worship to the Kami or God, and proclaimed, 'one of the principles of founding this religious school is to let the public know our religious style to respect secular laws as standard.'
He promoted so called Wartime Doctrine linked to the state Shintoism.

In particular, he ordered that a part of Shinran's literary works be deleted that he regarded as irreverent to the Imperial family (the problem of partial effacement of sacred scripture). He backed up the war footing by issuing shosoku (statements) to the followers of the school to encourage their cooperation to the war efforts. Also Kosho made often his personal visits to military units to comfort soldiers. Shortly after the Nanjing Massacre, he personally entered into Nanjing City and performed memorial services for the victims of the war.

His religious community purchased a lot of war bonds under the pretext of its collaboration to the war, which invited financial crisis for the community after the war.

Priests, who established so called wartime doctrine at the helm of the school, were either accused persistently of their responsibilities for the war, or evaluated that they had no other choice in the circumstances at that time.

Major activities in the postwar period:

Performed innovation of the system of the religious community, including abolishment of the chief abbot system.
The 450th Onki Hoyo (annual memorial service)
The 700th Daionki Hoyo (the great annual memorial services) for Shinran-shonin (Reverend Shinran)
The 800th anniversary of the birth of Reverend Shinran, and 750th anniversary of establishment of a new sect

Major career

The second Honorary President of the World Fellowship of Buddhists
The President of the All Japan Buddhist Federation
The President of Zenkoku Kyokaishi Renmei (National Confederation of Teachers in Reforming of Criminals)
The President of the All Japan Buddhist Federation (for the second time)
The President of Zaidan-hojin Zenkoku Kyokaishi Renmei
The President of All Japan Buddhist Federation (for the third time)
The Honorary President of the World Conference of Religions for Peace

Personal Profile

During the term of his service as the chief priest, he steadily modified some rules and regulations which included revising Shoshinge (Verses on True Faith). From this fact, we can see an aspect of his austere nature concerning ceremonial and ritual events.

He was also known as a devotee of stamp-collecting tennis and golf.

[Original Japanese]