omohan ai-zuri

The Rōben Falls at Ōyama in Sagami Province, c. 1832

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The Buddhist monk Rōben (689-773) was a religious adviser to Emperor Shōmu. His efforts to establish Tōdai Temple led to his appointment as sōjō (high priest). He was the first of many remarkable priests to hold that exalted position in the country’s largest and most important Buddhist temple. Rōben is also credited with the founding, in 755, of Ukōsan Daisanji, popularly known as Ōyama Temple, in Sagami Province (present-day Kanagawa Prefecture). Ukō means “rainfall” and suggests the mountain’s power to bring rain. Like many Buddhist temples, Ōyama Temple was constructed on an ancient Shinto site. The shrine associated with the complex was called Afuri Shrine. A waterfall that issues from the mountain came to be called Rōben Falls, as noted here in the title cartouche.

This image shows pilgrims performing ritual purification (mizugori) in Rōben Falls before ascending the mountain to visit Ōyama Temple edifices. Many of them carry long wooden sword-like objects, a custom recalling the warrior Minamoto Yoritomo (1147-99), who is said to have had a wooden sword purified at the temple in hopes that this would ensure victory in battle. The pilgrims’ “swords,” which are inscribed with prayers, would have been offered at the temple following the ritual ablutions illustrated here.

The Rōben Falls at Ōyama in Sagami Province
Artist Life
1760 - 1849
Accession Number
Catalogue Raisonne
Ukiyo-e shūka 16 (1981), p. 230, vertical ōban #20.2
Curator Approved

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omohan ai-zuri