En no Ozuno (役小角)

EN no Ozuno (also known as En no Ozunu or En no Otsuno, 634 - 706 according to legend) is a holy man from the Asuka period to Nara period. He did exist in real-life, however, the personalities told seem to be legendary. Commonly called En no Gyoja, he is thought as the founder of Shugendo (Japanese ascetic and shamanistic practice in mountainous sites).

EN no Ozuno described in the "Shoku Nihongi" (Chronicle of Japan Continued)

It is told that EN no Ozuno was sent to the Izu Islands on June 29, 699 in the "Shoku Nihongi." The book also tells that Ozuno once lived in the Katsuragi-san Mountain and became well known for his magic skills. As his disciple, KARAKUNI no Hirotari, slandered Ozuno that he deceived people by words, Ozuno was punished by Onru (to be exiled to the farthest distant island). People rumored that Ozuno used Kijin (fierce god) to get water and firewood. They also said that he bounded Kijin when he did not obey him.

"Shoku Nihongi" is a history book completed in 797 and does not include fiction stories. Although the details may not be accurate enough, it is thought to be true that a holy man named EN no Ozuno, who came from the Katsuragi-san Mountain did exist in real-life and he was sent to the Izu Islands by the slander of KARAKUNI no Hirotari. Also, that a hundred years after that, a rumor that EN no Ozuno used Kijin was wide spread is thought as true.

"Shoku Nihongi" also mentions of his amnesty on November, 701, however, it does not refer to EN no Ozuno himself.

EN no Ozuno described in the "Nihon Ryoiki" (Miraculous Stories from the Japanese Buddhist Tradition, written in the early Heian period).

Stories related to EN no Ozuno was recorded in the "Nihon genho zenaku ryoiki" (set of three books of Buddhist stories, written in the late 8th and early 9th century, usually referred to as the Nihon Ryouiki). It was the prototype of the image of EN no Ozuno that came to be known in later years. As the book contains many absurd stories, his stories cannot be thought to be historically true either, however, the stories do not seem to have been completely made up by the author; it is thought that they were based on rumors spread in those days.

In this book, he is described as an Ubasoku Buddhist (a lay believer, not a priest) who is a faithful worshipper of Buddhism. He was from Chihara-mura, Kazuraki Kami no kori County, Yamato Province and his father was Kamo no e no kimi. It is said that at a young age, he played with sennin (immortal mountain wizard) and learned the Kujakuo juho (magic) and manipulated Kijin freely. When he tried to order Kijin to build a bridge between the Kongo-san Mountain and the Katsuragi-san Mountain, Hitokoto nushi (a Japanese ancient god) of the Katsuragi-san Mountain, transferred himself into a human and gave a slanderous report to Emperor Mommu to punish Ozuno. He was not captured by the Emperor's servant, however, he surrendered when his mother was taken as hostage. Even though he was sent to the Izu Islands, he was only on the Izu Islands during the daytime; at night, he engaged in the ascetic practices in the Mount Fuji. He was released on the New Year's Day in 701, and became sennin. Hitokoto nushi is still bound by the spell of En Ubasoku Buddhist unreleased.

Other images of EN no Ozuno

He was born in Chihara-mura, Kazuraki Kami no kori County, Yamato Province (present day Chihara, Gose City, Nara Prefecture) in 634. The Kisshoso-ji Temple was established at the place known to be his birth place. He studied at the Gango-ji Temple at the age of 17. It is said that he learned the magic of Kujaku Myo-o. After that, he engaged in Shugendo school (Japanese ascetic and shamanistic practice in mountainous sites) in the Yamato Katsuragi Mountain (Kongo-san Mountain of the Kongo mountainous district) and continued ascetic practices in the mountains of Kumano and Mt. Omine, and was inspired with Zao Gongen (the principal image of the Kimpusen Zaodo, and the highest worship object of the Shugendo) that allowed him to establish the base of Shugendo.

He was known as a holy man having excellent jujutsu skills who claimed the need of harmonious relationship between Shinto and Buddhist deities; there is a legend that he cured FUJIWARA no Kamatari's leg disease when he was in his twenties.

He was suspected of planning a rebellion in 699, and was deported to the Izu-oshima Island, however, he returned to Chihara-mura in 701 after he was cleared of the suspicion.

It is said that he died at Tenjogadake Mountain in Mino City in July 20, 701, at the age of 68.

When a mountain religion became popular in the Heian period, he came to be called 'EN no Gyoja.'

Most sacred grounds for Shugendo such as the Tenkawa-jinja Shrine and Ominesan Ryusen-ji Temple are associated with EN no Gyoja, such as having him as the originator or as the place he engaged in the ascetic practices.

Jinben-daibosatsu (great bodhisattva)

Imperial Prince Shogoinnomiya Einin announced Emperor Kokaku that it was the 1100th anniversary of the death of EN no Gyoja in 1799. On January 25 of that year, Emperor Kokaku sent Karasumaru Dainagon (chief councilor of state) to Shogo-in Temple as an Imperial envoy to bestow the shigo (posthumous title) of Jinben-daibosatsu.

Chokusho was all handwritten by Emperor Kokaku. It is preserved in Shogo-in Temple as the temple's treasure.

Religious belief

As part of the religious belief of EN no Gyoja, there are 36 temples designated as EN no Gyoja Reiseki Fudasho (sacred places where is said to remain the spiritual mark of EN no Gyoja, and pilgrims offer or receive their pilgrimage card.) in some prefectures such as Osaka, Nara, Shiga, Kyoto, Wakayama, and Mie. Sometimes, 'Jinben-daibosatsu' is used as an honorific title of EN no Gyoja or as the name of the statue and Hono nobori (Japanese banners in dedication to god) saying 'Namu Jinben-daibosatsu' are seen at shrines and temples.


Sometimes fuda (plates) with the pictures of EN no Gyoja are distributed at the temples of the Shgendo lineage; EN no Gyoja drawn in these fuda are old, sitting on a stone-like socle (used as the base for a Buddhist statue), with his second thighs exposed and zukin (hood) on his head, wearing geta (clog) with single support, a makimono (scroll) in his right hand and Shakujo in his left hand together with the pictures of Zenki (Oni demon in front) and Goki (Oni demon in back). As the tool he is holding in the pictures are mikkyo hogu (the Buddhist instruments of esoteric Buddhism), the images differ from temple to temple.


It is said that he had the power of Buddhism that enabled him to manipulate Kijin. The images of Zenki and Goki are well known. One day, he thought about building a stone bridge between Mt. Katsuragi and Kongo-san Mountain and tried to accomplish this by recruiting gods of various districts. However, the god Hitokoto nushi was so ashamed of exposing his ugly figure that he only worked during the night. Therefore, although Hitokoto nushi was god, EN no Gyoja tortured and accused him. As this was hard to endure for Hitokoto nushi, he slandered EN no Gyoja by informing that EN no Gyoja was planning a rebellion against the Emperor and he was captured after having his mother taken in hostage and sent to the Izu-oshima Island. It is said that therefore, the bridge building plan was abandoned.

It is also said that EN no Gyoja walked every night on the sea from the Izu-oshima Island where he was deported and climbed the Mt. Fuji.

Also, there is an anecdote that one day when Dosho was giving a lecture of Hokke-kyo Sutra to five hundred tigers in Silla on the way to China from Japan for study, EN no Gyoja was in the crowd and asked him questions.

[Original Japanese]