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The Izu Exile


This letter was written on June 27, 1261, to Funamori Yasabura, who lived in Kawana, a small fishing village on the northeastern coast of the Izu Peninsula, about fifty miles west of Kamakura. Nichiren Daishonin was then forty years old and in exile at Izu. Yasaburo was commonly known as Funamori (literally, "boat-manager") since he ran a fishing business. He and his wife protected the Daishonin during his exile, even at the risk of their lives, and were converted to the Daishonin's Buddhism. The Daishonin later sent several letters of thanks to them for their help during the almost two years of his exile in Izu.

In 1260, Nichiren Daishonin had submitted the "Rissho Ankoku Ron" (On Securing the Peace of the Land through the Propagation of True Buddhism) to Hojo Tokiyori, the former regent. In this treatise, the Daishonin asserted that Japan slandered the True Law and encouraged false doctrines, especially Nembutsu. The letter was a lengthy thesis and attributed the chaos of the age to religious decadence. Not only did his warning go unheeded, but a group of Nembutsu followers attacked his cottage at Matsubagayatsu in an attempt to kill him. The Daishonin narrowly escaped to Shimosa Province, staying for a time at the home of Toki Jonin, his follower and an influential lord. But in less than a year, his sense of mission compelled him to return to Kamakura to resume his preaching.

The Nembutsu priests, alarmed at his success in attracting followers, contrived to have charges brought against him before the Kamakura government. The regent at the time was Hojo Nagatoki. His father was Shigetoki, a Nembutsu adherent and confirmed enemy of the Daishonin. Without investigation or trial, the regent accepted the charges and, on May 12, 1261, ordered Nichiren Daishonin banished to Ito on the Izu Peninsula. Izu was a stronghold of the Nembutsu sect, and exile there posed great personal danger to the Daishonin.

Government officials who were to carry the Daishonin to Izu by boat apparently did not take him as far as Ito. Instead, they abandoned him on a beach at Kawana where he would be at the mercy of local citizens. Yasaburo, who lived nearby, happened to pass by and took the Daishonin to his own house, where he offered shelter and food. After Nichiren Daishonin had spent about a month at Yasaburo's house, the lord of the Ito district, Ito Sukemitsu, learned of the Daishonin's presence.  Seriously ill, Lord Ito sent a messenger, asking the Daishonin to come to pray for his recovery. Ito recovered and gratefully presented the Daishonin with a statue of the Buddha retrieved from the sea.

When the Daishonin went to Ito to pray for the lord's recovery, both Yasaburo and his wife were concerned about the Daishonin's safety. Yasaburo therefore sent a messenger to him at Ito with various offerings. "The Izu Exile" is the Daishonin's reply brought back by the messenger. In this letter, Nichiren Daishonin expresses his heartfelt thanks for the protection which the couple extended to him and says that they acted as Buddhist gods. He also states that there is no essential difference between a common mortal and a Buddha when people understand the principle of ichinen sanzen and embody it in their own lives. Finally, he urges Yasaburo to keep their communication secret for his own protection, since associating with an exile was forbidden by law.

Only six months after the Daishonin's term of exile began, the people of Kamakura were shocked by the news that Hojo Shigetoki had died of a mysterious disease. In time, apparently at the suggestion of the former regent Hojo Tokiyori, the government issued a pardon, and Nichiren Daishonin returned to Kamakura in February 1263.

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