“Miyagi Network News” vol.108

Confirming the Zushi's condition

~The recovery operation for the Ihaido~

Keiko Yanagitani (maiden name: Kikuchi), as a trustee of the Miyagi Network for Historical Materials

On April 17th, we carried out the recovery operation of the Ihaido in the certain temple located in the northern area of Miyagi Prefecture. The Ihai means the Buddhist memorial tablet and Ihaido is the room that the Ihai is niched in the corner of the temple and the descendants visit and pray to their ancestors there. This Ihaido which we visited was in the back room of the main temple, and each Ihai of the successive loads and their families were sheathed in the Zushi which were enshrined on the three tier ledges. Zushi is a kind of miniature shrine and the case of the Ihai or other such sacred items. Usually, the Ihai is placed in its own Zushi. In the Ihaido, there were also the Ihai of the chief priests for generations from the founder of this temple, the boxes of scriptures which contained the Great Perfection of Wisdom Sutra, and the other Buddhist altar fittings. As for the Ihai and the Zushi, the biggest one’s size was nearly 1m in height, and even the smallest one was also 30cm in length. 50 Ihai and Zushi were counted in total. A large part of the Ihai had haphazardly fallen down from the ledges by the quake on March 11Th, and they were damaged more seriously by the aftershocks on April 7th. We received the request from the people concerned to recover them because it had proved too much of a task for the priest himself. Therefore, we carried out the recovery operation with the local people, the priest, and his family all day long.

First of all, we took out the all of things which were in the Ihaido. As for most of the Zushi, the metal fittings were stripped and the doors broken, so the Ihai which used to be inside were outside of the Zushi. Some doors were completely apart from the original Zushi, so we had to seek the matching doors one by one. While many of the Ihai were now mixed together from various parts and had consisted of an upper and a foundation part, we tried to recover them as they used to be by carefully looking for the accurate matching parts.

After that, in order to store the Ihai in the Zushi where it was placed, we confirmed the instructions which were written in India ink on the Zushi and judging from each Zushi’s size, we replaced the Ihai in the Zushi. Almost all of them complemented each other as they used to. On the other hand, many of the Zushi were damaged and the beautiful ornaments of the Ihai were broken, so they required special repair by a professional who have expertise of Buddhist images or the Buddhist arts.

For the present we could recover the Ihai and the Zushi, so we carefully put back them in the Ihaido, and the operation which started at 10.30am finished at about 5p.m. without hindrance.

During this operation, as we confirmed the deceased people’s names which were engraved on the Ihai with reference to the ancestral genealogy of this temple, it was realised that those Ihai was assembled not only the whole Edo Period’s masters from the first to the 13th, but also all of their wives, mothers, and their children. Furthermore, interestingly the patterns and designs indicated the relationships between the parent and child, or husband and wife. We could see that the ornaments of the women’s Ihai had the heraldry of their parental family. The Ihai which was made in the Shinto style in the beginning of the Meiji period was stamped as “Singi (神儀, it means ‘worshiped by Shinto style’)”, and we could understand that the Ihai of the first’s father was made as a Shinto style at that time. This operation unexpectedly became a good opportunity for us to obtain the worth of those Ihai as historical materials. Nevertheless, it was very regrettable that those artefacts were damaged by the quake, so we keenly desire to consider how to support the owners such as temples or individuals who will have to repair our cultural properties.

On the way to the temple, while we looked around the northern area of Miyagi Prefecture, we could find the gate of the old residence was seriously slanted, the walls of the whitewashed warehouses had fallen down, the white-plastered walls were peeling off from their wall boards, and the scenes on those walls which were covered with vinyl sheets were outstanding. Therefore we will have to inspect those old structures located along the inland highways again.

In this operation, six members of the Miyagi Network for Preserving Historical Materials participated.


NB: The photos are all from the homepage of  the Miyagi Network for Preserving Historical Materials.


About Nerwork for Historical Materials
A volunteer group for preserving Cultural Heritage suffered from natural disasters

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