Sightseeing Spot Details
Located on a hill beside the Chikugo River just behind JR Kurume Station is Bairinji Temple of the Myoshinji school of Rinzai Zen Buddhism. It is an old, historic temple that is known as Kyushu’s representative ascetic training hall and served as a family temple for the Kurume Domain lords, the Arima Family.
The origin of the temple was in 1621 when the first domain lord, Arima Toyoji, moved Zuiganji Temple from its old location in Tanba-Fukuchiyama to Kurume, where he transferred the remains of his father, Noriaki, and renamed the temple after his father’s posthumous Buddhist name, Bairinin.
In the front of the main hall, Chinese gates with doors carved in relief exude an exceedingly dignified appearance, while in its rear, the mausoleum and tomb of each successive Kurume domain lord (starting with Ariyama Toyoji) display their stately presence in a small, quiet pine wood.
Bairinji Temple houses more than 600 treasures, such as the colors-on-silk hanging scroll “Shaka Sanzon (Three Buddhas)” (Government Designated Important Cultural Asset) as well as the painting of Mt. Fuji done by Ogata Korin, the folding screen by Hasegawa Tohaku, and fusuma (Japanese sliding door) paintings by the Kono school.
As the name of the temple (“bairin” means plum blossom woods) suggests, plum blossoms compete with the temple itself in terms of beauty in the adjacent outer garden, which is known to local residents as a relaxing plaza.
<The Plum Trees in the Outer Garden of Bairinji Temple>
Contrary to what its name suggests, Bairinji Temple was not named so because of the neighboring plum blossom forest. The temple’s founder, Arima Toyoji, named it after his father’s posthumous Buddhist name, Bairinin. It is known as a strict ascetic training hall where many ascetic monks go to train: however, as a part of the activities marking the 350th anniversary of the death of a chief priest (Umon Genkyu Zenji) in 1958, part of the temple’s premises along the Chikugo River were open to the public as a civic park. The plum trees are said to have been donated by many people, including the founder of Bridgestone Co., Shojiro Ishibashi. In 2008, Bairinji Temple celebrated the 400th anniversary of the chief priest who founded the temple, and the 50th anniversary of the outer garden.
<The Shade of a Tree at Bairinji Temple>
There is an old Bo-tree in the garden in the front of the hall. Although its age is unknown, the trunk splits in several different directions, its inside is almost completely hollow, and it looks like it is supported only by its skin. Because it is a small tree, it brings to mind an old plum tree.
2,500 years ago, Buddha meditated under a Bo-tree and achieved enlightenment. Since this scene took place in sweltering India, the shade of the tree must have been comforting.