In 1242, Enni Ben’en (posthumous name: Shouichi Kokushi) founded Jotenji Temple, a place with deep ties to Hakata-ori textiles and the presumed origin of the Hakata Yamakasa festival. It is said that the Yamakasa began when Enni had locals carry him around on a shelf for offerings to segaki (“hungry ghosts”) so he could sprinkle holy water to ward off an epidemic. Meanwhile, the traditional patterns used for Hakata-ori textiles are said to be based on Buddhist altar goods proposed by Enni.
Located near Hakata Station, Jotenji Temple is a popular destination due to its striking temple gate and buildings, not to mention a beautiful rock garden. Unfortunately, the temple grounds ended up bisected by a road when the area was rezoned in 1963 to accommodate the move of Hakata Station to its present day location. Fukuoka City decided to build the Hakata Sennenomon Gate to enhance the appeal of the area’s historical and cultural value. The gate, which will welcome visitors to Hakata’s temple district, is slated for completion this spring.
The gate blends harmoniously with the surrounding landscape, measuring roughly eight meters tall and eight meters wide. The tiled hip-and-gable roof made from Japanese cypress gives the gate a truly dignified air. The site is located near where the Tsujinodokuchimon Gate, an important gateway to Hakata in the Edo Period, once stood. To keep this historical name alive, the Hakata Sennenomon Gate will also carry the name of Tsujinodokuchimon.
The name plate on the gate was written by Xie Jing, the abbot of the Wanshou Zen Monastery—the temple in China were Enni once studied Zen Buddhism. The temple burned to the ground after Enni returned to Japan, and sources say he sent wood from Hakata to help rebuild it. In a sense, the name plate serves as a gift to repay Enni’s kindness more than 700 years later. The four characters in the inscription mean “may you prosper for 1,000 or even 10,000 years”
Originally published by Fukuoka Now Magazine (Apr. 2014)