Hokke Uprising

法華一揆

Enryaku Temple

Kyōto

Hokke ikki

Date:  Tenbun 1 (1532) to Tenbun 16 (1547)

Location:  In and around the capital of Kyōto in Yamashiro Province

Synopsis:  After the Hokke group (affiliated with the Nichiren sect) gained influence with a large following among the residents of Kyōto, hostilities erupted between the Hokke and the rival Enryaku Temple (affiliated with the Jōdo Shinshū sect).  The conflict culminated in a devastating battle during which large areas of Kyōto were burned down.

The Hokke Uprising occurred from 1532 to 1547 in the Tenbun era of the Sengoku period.  This uprising was led by followers of the Hokke group (affiliated with the Nichren sect of Buddhism) in a violent and prolonged dispute with the rival Enryaku Temple (affiliated with the Jōdo Shinshū sect) in and around the capital of Kyōto.  The series of events comprising this uprising are also referred to as the Tenbun Hokke Conflict or, from the perspective of the Hokke sect, the Hokke Religious Persecution.  This rivalry demonstrated that conflict during the Sengoku period was not limited to power-struggles between clans, but enveloped relations between religious sects as well, serving as another source of instability in society.

During the Tenbun era, centered at the Honkoku Temple in Rokujō and other sites in Kyōto, the Nichiren school of Buddhism (the Hokke) gained many adherents and permeated the machishū, a local class of wealthy merchants and craftsmen.  Consequently, the group became very influential.  In 1532, rumors circulated that a religious band of monks from the Jōdo Shinshū sect affiliated with the Hongan Temple (known as the Ikkō-ikki) were coming to Kyōto.  After joining forces with Hosokawa Harumoto and Ibaraki Nagataka, followers of the Hokke sect responded by burning down the temples associated with the religious band of the Hongan Temple.  At this time, the Yamashina-Hongan Temple was a temple village and monastery surrounded by embankments located in the Yamashina Basin to the east of the Kyōto metropolis separated by Mount Higashi.  This site was completely destroyed in the Battle of Yamashina-Hongan Temple.  Later, the Hokke group obtained autonomous rights in Kyōto to conduct patrols, refuse the payment of rents and so forth, expanding their influence in the capital over an approximately five-year period.  From the perspective of other religious sects, this expansion of influence by the Hokke group was called the Hokke Uprising.

In the second month of 1536, the Hokke group called upon the Enryaku Temple on Mount Hiei for a religious dialogue.  The Enryaku Temple responded, and, on 3/3 of Tenbun 5 (1536), a monk from the west tower at the Enryaku Temple by the name of Keōbō engaged in a discourse with Matsumoto Shinzaemon Hisayoshi, a member of the Myōkō Temple in Mobara in Kazusa Province, whereupon Hisayoshi prevailed in the argument (an event known as the Matsumoto Dialogue).

Rumors then spread that a monk from the Enryaku Temple had lost in a debate with an ordinary believer of the Nichiren sect.  In an effort to preserve their honor, the heads of the Enryaku Temple appealed to the Muromachi bakufu for an order to halt the Nichiren sect from further associating itself with the name of the Hokke sect.  The bakufu, however, ruled in favor of the Nichiren sect based on an Imperial edict issued by Emperor Godaigo in 1334, and the claim by the Enryaku Temple was rejected.  By deliberately rendering a verdict for the Nichiren sect, the bakufu stirred further tensions between the rival sects.  As a result, the Enryaku Temple committed to destroy the Hokke group in Kyōto.

In the seventh month of 1536, a group of warrior monks from the Enryaku Temple took steps in a bide to decimate the Hokke group.  After gathering from all parts of the Enryaku Temple, the monks pressured the twenty-one leading temples of the Nichiren sect located inside and outside of Kyōto to recognize the Enryaku Temple as the head temple and to pay funds in support of the Enryaku Temple.  When the temples affiliated with the Nichiren sect refused these demands, the leaders of the Enryaku Temple requested permission from the Imperial Court and the bakufu to subjugate the Hokke group.  Beginning with Asakura Takakage, a daimyō from Echizen Province, representatives of the Enryaku Temple sought cooperation from other sects who did not get along with the Hokke group, including the Hongan, the Kōfuku, the Onjō, and the Tō temples.  All of these temples refused to send reinforcements but promised to remain as neutral parties to the conflict.

After securing support from Rokkaku Sadayori, a daimyō from southern Ōmi Province, on 7/23, an army of 60,000 men comprised of warrior monks from the Enryaku Temple and Rokkaku forces mobilized and pushed ahead into Kyōto, clashing with 20,000 followers of the Hokke group.  Meanwhile, in preparation for an attack by monks from the Enryaku Temple, beginning from the end of the fifth month, the Hokke group dug defensive moats in Kyōto, enabling the Hokke forces to initially gain the upper hand in the fighting.  Gradually, however, the battle turned in favor of the attacking army.  By 7/27, the combined forces of monks from the Enryaku Temple and the Rokkaku clan prevailed, while the twenty-one leading temples of the Nichiren sect were burned down.  In the process, somewhere between 3,000 and 10,000 members of the Hokke group were slaughtered.  On 7/28, the Honkoku Temple, which held out to the end, fell to the attackers in an event known as the Battle of Honkoku Temple.

The fires set by the monks from the Enryaku Temple and the Rokkaku turned into a conflagration, burning down the entire area of Shimogyō and one-third of Kamigyō.  The scale of fire damage resulting from the conflict exceeded the damage during the Ōnin-Bunmei War.

Through these events, the Hokke group of Kyōto which enjoyed a period of prosperity in the capital was decimated, while surviving members were expelled from the area.  Over the ensuing six-year period, the Nichiren sect was banned in Kyōto.  In 1542, through the offices of Rokkaku Sadayori, the Imperial Court issued an edict permitting the return again of their members to the capital.  In 1547, through Sadayori, representatives of the Enryaku Temple and the Nichiren sect reached a settlement.  Thereafter, fifteen of the original twenty-one temples of the Nichiren sect were reconstructed.