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    Ōno Dōken Sai Harutane
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History and architecture

Shiba Onkō and the Broken Jar.

 If you look up from the street at the Great Gate, you will see a carving. Its origin lies in the famous Song story of Shiba Onkō and the Broken Jar, also represented in a set of 20 carvings entitled "Children Playing", which can be admired in the centre of the Yōmei Gate at the Tōshōgu Shrine in Nikko. Similar images celebrating the respect for human life can be seen all over the country, in the paintings and carvings which embellish parade floats or on the design of pottery pieces.
 Shiba Onkō is the honorific name of Shiba Kō (Sima Guang in Chinese), a statesman of the Chinese North Song Dynasty who was well versed in Confucianism. The story of the broken jar goes like this. When Shiba Onkō was seven years old, one of his friends accidently fell into a large jar kept for storing drinking water and was about to drown. Seeing that, Shiba Onkō promptly broke the jar, thus saving his friend's life. This is the most famous scenes, the image of the little boy who crawls out of the broken jar being depicted in numerous carvings and paintings. Shiba's father, hearing about the incident, did not scold his son for wasting the precious water and breaking the jar; on the contrary, he praised him for saving his friend's life. This anecdote obviously emphasizes the value of human life, which cannot be exchanged for anything, yet somehow it makes me wonder what Tokugawa Ieyasu and Tokugawa Iemitsu were thinking when they commissioned the carving of so many figures of children innocently playing for the gate of the Tōshōgu Shrine. It may be that, tired from the struggles for power, they dreamt of peace and tranquility and entrusted their prayers to the innocent play of children.

 As soon as you step beyond the gate, a garden imbued with a sense of tranquility and blessed with a cool shade welcomes you, making you forget that you are in the center of a big town. Allow yourself to be immersed for a moment in the atmosphere of this garden and its 500-year old temple. Flowers of each season will soothe your heart and a flagstone path will lead you to the Main Hall. On the left side of the stone pavement a majestic cycad rises on top of a miniature hill, while on the right side the impressive camphor tree and the wide spreading branches of a Japanese maple tree complete a scenery worthy of such sacred grounds.