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Raikyuji Temple: a temple for peace and politics
Raikyuji Temple is located at the heart of the old town of Takahashi. We cannot exactly state how far the first temple constructed on this location dates back but we know for sure it did get restored in the early 14th century as one of the ankokuji, the “country at peace” temples built in every province of the country.
The construction of these temples was originally ordered by Ashikaga Takauji, who ruled as the first shogun of the Muromachi period (1336-1576), born on the ashes of the Kamakura shogunate, following failed attempts by Emperor Go-Daigo to restore a strong imperial rule. The temples were meant to ease the souls of all those fallen in the civil wars that paved the Ashikaga shoguns’ way to power, starting with Go-Daigo’s. Other than the aforementioned purely religious reason, building ankokuji temples (in many cases refurbishing or just renaming already-existing ones) was also a mean for the triumphing Ashikaga to enhance their prestige after decades of turmoil involving their family. It is highly probable that this network of like-minded temples were also thought as military posts to help them stabilize the fragile union of the provinces under their rule.
The ankokuji temple in modern-day Takahashi was renamed “ankoku raikyuji” (安国頼久寺) after the death of Ueno Yorihisa (上野頼久) in 1521. Lord of the Bitchu province, he was a devoted Zen Buddhist, as was the Ashikaga government, and a generous benefactor who financed numerous works of the temple. Within the temple, a mortuary stele is erected in honor of the generous Ueno family, next to the Mimura’s, two devoted families who both provided castle lords.
After the Battle of Sekigahara, in 1600, the new shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616) ordered Kobori Masatsugu (1540-1604) to serve as prefect to administrate the Bitchu region on his behalf. The latter settled there with his son, Kobori Masakazu, later to be known under his artist name Kobori “Enshu” (1579-1647). When his father died four years later, Enshu took over and ruled over the area, but, because the local castle was too damaged, Kobori Enshu made of Raikyuji Temple his personal residence, his administration command post, as well as the canvas for a beautiful renaissance garden.