Otani Koson (大谷光尊)

Koson OTANI (March 17, 1850 - January 18, 1903) was a priest of the Jodo Shinshu (the True Pure Land Sect of Buddhism) and the 21st hoshu (head priest) of the Nishi Hongan-ji Temple who lived from the end of the Edo period to the early part of the Meiji period. His father was Konyo, the 20th hoshu of the Nishi Hongan-ji Temple. His official rank was count. His imina (personal name) was Koson. His homyo (a name given to a person who enters the Buddhist priesthood) (the Jodo Shinshu Sect) was Myonyo.

He had children such as Kozui OTANI (also known as Kyonyo), Takeko KUJO and Sonyu OTANI.


He was born as the fifth son of Konyo, the 20th hoshu of the Nishi Hongan-ji Temple. Konyo originally had four sons and a daughter, but since all of them died early, he appointed Tokunyo (also known as Kojun (広淳)) who came from the Kensho-ji Temple (Yao City) as the new monzeki (successor of a temple) and Myonyo himself was assigned as the next successor of hoshu as an adopted son of Tokunyo. However, since Tokunyo also died in 1868, he became the new monzeki.

In 1871 he was assigned to the position of the 21st hoshu of the Hongan-ji Temple in accordance with the death of Konyo. After that, in the revolutionary times of the Meiji Restoration, he promoted the reforms of the system in the recent religious community as a young hoshu. While he determined the own systems of sect and rules for temples which replaced the Honmatsu seido (the system of head and branch temples) in the Edo period, and sought to strengthen control of the religious community of the Shin Sect headed by the Hongan-ji Temple, he made his aides and young priests study abroad and developed a new religious community policy which could oppose the Western civilization. These contributions led to the establishment of the first assembly (also referred as Shukai) in Japan which was earlier than that of the Meiji government and the religious policy by Kozui OTANI, the later 22nd hoshu.

Financially, he established the Hongan-ji Temple's goji zaidan (financial group), followed by the foundation system in western countries in order to prevent dissipation of the fortune of the religious community during the confusing period of the Meiji Restoration. In education, he also promoted the reform of Gakurin (literally, 'Learners' Forest,' the later Ryukoku University) and made efforts to cultivate human resources who could bear a new age.

For missionary activities, while he was left behind the Higashi Hongan-ji Temple in the Hokkaido region, he promoted going abroad, and built instant bases to conduct missionary work in Asia and western countries. In addition, he built the base of the later Buddhist social works such as visiting army, a missionary work for army, sending prison chaplains and a movement of donation for the socially vulnerable.

The Official Name of the Sect

Although there had been a dispute the usage of the name of the Jodo Shinshu Sect with Jodo (Pure Land) Sect for a long time since the Edo period, in March 1872 in the era of Myonyo, the sect came to able to use the name of the Jodo Shinshu Sect officially by Promulgation of Dajokan (Grand Council). At the same time the common name of the Ikko sect was officially abolished according to doctrine.

The Imperial Proclamation of Daishi-go Title (literally a great master, an honorific title given by the Imperial Court)

Various schools of the Shin Sect had requested to be given shigo (a posthumous name) from the Emperor to Shinran, the founder of the sect, and Rennyo, Chuko no So (father of restoration). The title of Kenshin Daishi was given to Shinran in 1876 and the title of Eto Daishi was given to Rennyo in 1882. It is said that such requests had been made to the Imperial Court before, but lobbying to the politicians of the Meiji government such as Sanetomi SANJO and Tomomi IWAKURA allowed it to succeed.

The Separation Movement from Daikyoin (Great Teaching Institute)

Mokurai SHIMAJI and others criticized Daikyoin and Sanjo kyosoku (Three Fundamental Articles on Creed), which were the religious policy of the Meiji government, and the religious community dropped out of it, which promoted the change in direction of the religious policy of the government. Although this movement had been appraised as insisting on 'the freedom of faith in Japan' so far, some modern people think that Shimaji and Myonyo themselves were positive towards the idea of State Shinto and that it was not necessarily a movement to seek the freedom of faith and creed.

[Original Japanese]