Kyokaku (経覚)

Kyokaku (also pronounced Gyokaku) (1395 - September 19, 1473) was a monk of the Hosso sect during the Muromachi period. His father was Kanpaku (chief adviser to the Emperor) Tsunenori KUJO, and his mother was from Hongan-ji Temple of the Jodo Shinshu (the True Pure Land Sect of Buddhism) sect, from a family later known as the Otani family. He took Rennyo, who later became the eighth chief priest of Hongan-ji Temple, as his disciple, as a result of a connection on his mother's side, maintaining a good relationship with him throughout his life as master and disciple, even though they belonged to different religious schools. He is also known to have become the Jimu Daisojo (the highest position relating to the operation of temples in the Buddhist priesthood), in his role as Kofuku-ji betto (head priest of Kofuku-ji Temple), four times. His personal name was Go-godaiin.


Although there is a record stating that Kyokaku's mother (her Buddhist name was Shorin) was from Hongan-ji Temple, there are no concrete details as to who she was. However it is generally known that his mother was the daughter of Shakunyo the fifth judging by the Kyokaku's birth year, and based on this information Rennyo's father, Zonnyo, was Keikaku's cousin. At that time Hongan-ji Temple was declining in power, and in order to get the support of the Kujo family who were the Sekke (line of regents and advisers), it was necessary to assist with their household duties, and it is believed that Kyokaku's mother had a relationship with Tsunenori while she was working for the Kujo family.

Since Kyokaku lost his father when he was small, he entered into the priesthood when he was thirteen under the supervision of Koen of Kofuku-ji Temple Daijo-in. He became chief priest of Daijo-in four years later.

On March 25, 1426 he was appointed as Kofuku-ji betto (the head priest of Kofuku-ji Temple), he also worked as betto in 1431, 1461, and 1469.

He had a close relationship with important people in the Muromachi bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun), such as seii taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians") Yoshimichi ASHIKAGA, however following conflict with Yoshimichi he was forced to relinquish his position as chief priest to Jinson in 1438, and was forced to retire to Hoju-in Temple. However, after Yoshimichi was assassinated in the Kakitsu Incident, Kyokaku obtained support from the Ochi and Furuichi clans of Yamato Province and entered 已心寺, becoming politically active once more. But the opposition forces, Joshinin Kosen and his relatives the Tsutsui clan, were against this and gathered people from Yamato Province to kill Junei TSUTSUI in 1444, however after failing in this they were instead attacked by Junei TSUTSUI who was aiming to govern Nara Province. In response Kyokaku had Kionzan-jo Castle built within the precincts of Daijo-in Temple in the mountains and confined himself inside, but the castle fell to the enemy the following year and he escaped to Ani-ji Temple. But he took power back again and was appointed Kofuku-ji betto (the head priest of Kofuku-ji Temple), giving significant influence to Yamato Province. After his older brother Mitsuie KUJO (Mitsunori KUJO) died in 1449, he also became guardian of his brother's children, the brothers Masatada KUJO and Masamoto KUJO. He died at Kofuku-ji Temple.

There is a diary called "Kyogaku shiyosho" (diary of the priest Kyogaku) of which details follow below.

Relationship with Rennyo

Although Kyokaku was not from Hongan-ji Temple school, as his mother came from there he had a strong relationship with Hongan-ji Temple, and when Zonnyo the seventh died he sent a messenger to make a call of condolence to the temple, stating 'Zonnyo was a peerless friend and a benefactor who I have known for fifty years,' and he visited Otani Hongan-ji Temple himself later on.

As Zonnyo's child born out of wedlock, Rennyo was looked after by Kyokaku when he was small and did some training (to become a priest) under Kyokaku's supervision, and being master and student they supported each other in later life. Kyokaku also appointed Renko, who was chief priest of Wada Hongaku-ji Temple, a branch temple of Hongan-ji Temple, to the position of local governor of Hosorogi go in Kawaguchi no sho within Echizen Province, a manor of Daijo-in under Kyokaku's control.

During the religious persecution of the Kansei Era Rennyo consulted Kyokaku when faced with the threat of the destruction of Hongan-ji Temple and persecution from Enryaku-ji Temple. Kyokaku suggested that Rennyo move to Yoshizaki Gobo in Kawaguchi no Sho which was looked after by Renko, and promoted a plan to regain power. It was supposed that Echizen Province would be an ideal place to encourage the spread of his religion as many believers of Jodo Shinshu (the True Pure Land Sect of Buddhism) or other related religious sects lived in the area, and from Kyokaku's point of view, since there was conflict between the Asakura clan and the Kai clan, who were the Shugodai (deputy of Shugo, provincial constable) of Echizen Province at that time, and there was continuous embezzlement of the manors by them, Kyokaku expected Rennyo, who was his disciple and who he trusted, to act as local governor of Kawaguchi no Sho.

Rennyo built Yoshizaki gobo in Yoshizaki after receiving Kyokaku's advice and Renko's support, and he then worked to actively spread the religion there. In the meantime, Rennyo always made sure that Kyokaku regularly received nengu (land tax) from Kawaguchi no Sho. It did not take long for Hongan-ji Temple to become one of the most powerful political forces in the Hokuriku district after Kyokaku died.


Kyogakushiyosho (Diary of Ani-ji Temple) was the diary which Kyokaku kept. The original eighty two diaries were kept in the National Archives of Japan (the Cabinet Library) and were made Important Cultural Properties in 2003 (however one diary was found not to be Kyokaku's but to have been written by Jinson). Written copies are also kept in the Imperial Household Archives of the Historiographical Institute at the University of Tokyo, and Tohoku University.

The existing manuscripts date from 1415 to 1472 (part are lost), and they are categorized into two distinct groups, one called 'Nichijiki' written in diary style, the other called 'Bekki' in which observations on important matters were recorded. They contain detailed descriptions of the operation of the temple, how the temple was controlled within the Kofuku-ji Temple, social trends in Yamato Province, the development of central politics in Kyoto, the actions of Kyokaku's relatives, including the Kujo family and the workings of Hongan-ji Temple, thus collectively they are a rare historical record relating to the politics, economy, society and religion of the Muromachi period.

[Original Japanese]