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Travel Tozenji Temple

By JREF · Nov 12, 2015 · Updated Feb 23, 2018 ·
  1. JREF
    The family temple of the Oguri clan and the grave of Oguri Tadamasa

    The Tōzenji (東善寺) temple belongs to the Sōtō Zen school of Buddhism (曹洞宗 Sōtō-shū), the largest of the three traditional sects of Zen in Japanese Buddhism. It is located in Kurabuchi Village, formerly known as Gonda Village, nowadays part of Takasaki City, Gunma Prefecture, and was founded in 1633. Of historic significance as the family temple of the Oguri, bannermen (旗本 hatamoto) of the Tokugawa, it is the final resting place of the magistrate Oguri Tadamasa.

    The fief of Gonda was bestowed upon the Oguri family around 1705 and was the second largest village under their tenure, providing a steady income from lumber. Although the contact between bannermen and their fiefs was traditionally not very close, there is evidence of personal ties between the village, the temple and the Oguri family.

    In "Meiji Restoration Losers", Michael Wert elaborates on those ties: according to a memorial tablet found at the the Tōzenji, the sixth-generation Oguri Masahige completely renovated the temple, while the eighth-generation Oguri Nabeshirō lived in Gonda with the Makino family, local sake brewers, most likely to reconvalesce in the country. He died in 1744 at the age of only 28. Documents in possession of the temple also revealed that the eldest son of the ninth-generation Oguri completed his training as a monk and might have spent some time at the Tōzenji before passing away at the age of 29.

    The Oguri family and the Tōzenji share the same kamon (emblem): the maru-ni tatsunami (丸に立波, "standing waves in a circle"):


    The Tōzenji (東善寺), the family temple of the Oguri in Kurabuchi Village, Gunma Prefecture

    The main altar at the Tōzenji which houses a collection of exhibits and artifacts relating to the Oguri family and in particular to Kōzukenosuke (Oguri Tadamasa).

    Exhibits relating to Oguri's role in the establishment of the Yokosuka dry dock and iron foundry, models of the USS Powhatan, the Kanrin-maru and other ships, as well as a bust and an oil painting of Kōzukenosuke.

    Oil painting of Oguri Kōzukenosuke inspired by the historic photography of the three plenipotentiary members of the Japanese embassy to the United States in 1860. The slight smile on Kōzukenosuke's painted face contrasts with his rather musing and skeptical facial expression in the original photo (see below).

    The Embassy at the Washington D.C. shipyard: Vice-Ambassador Muragaki Norimasa (left), Ambassador Shinmi Masaoki (middle), and Oguri Tadamasa (right).

    Oguri Kōzukenosuke's stone bust in the garden of the Tōzenji.

    Oguri Kōzukenosuke's grave located just above the Tōzenji. His tomb is surrounded by the graves of his family members and retainers.

    Oguri Tadamasa's palanquin (駕籠 kago), said to have been used to carry him to his execution on the banks of the Karasugawa; displayed in a small museum annex at the Tōzenji.

    Photographies of Oguri Mataichi Tadamichi (bottom right), Kōzukenosuke's adopted son. When Kōzukenosuke was ordered to join the Japanese embassy to the US in 1860, he adopted Tadamichi, born to Komai Kainomori, a local retainer, and married him to Yokiko, the daughter of his paternal uncle Kusaka Kazuma, who he had also adopted. Suffering from poor health all his life, Kōzukenosuke insisted the two be wedded before the embassy departed, thus ensuring the Oguri lineage in case he would not return to Japan. Mataichi became the heir to the Oguri family

    Oguri Mataichi Tadamichi (left) with two retainers in the Boshin War. Several of Oguri's retainers accompanied Oguri's wife and her family on their flight to Aizuwakamatsu. On April 7, 1868, Mataichi was arrested by imperial troops and executed at Takasaki Castle along with other retainers without ever having learned that his adoptive father had been beheaded just a day earlier.

    Kuniko, Kōzukenosuke's biological daughter, was born in 1868 after the escape to Aizuwakamatsu, when Oguri's family had fled from the approaching Tōsandō troops. Later, Oguri's wife and Kuniko were taken care of by Minomura Rizaemon, a businessman who made the house of Mitsui the biggest trading house in Japan. Minomura was a close acquaintance of Oguri and a former family servant. When Minomura died in 1877, Ōkuma Shigenobu took them in and helped Kuniko find a husband, Yano Sadao.

    The Oguri Memorial marks the location where Oguri Tadamasa and two of his retainers were beheaded by imperial troops on April 6, 1868. It has been said that the executions of Oguri and his retainers were not condoned by the imperial government, but rather a result of poor leadership and lacking discipline on the part of the Tōsandō army. (Wert, p.37).


    The visit to the graveyard on the hill adjacent to the temple is free, the admission to the small Oguri museum and its annex is JPY 100.



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