“Hijiri”: monks who supported the management of documents

Monks who were assigned to protect the statue of Kukai (空海) at Sai-in Mieido (西院御影堂) were called hijiri (聖). They were also called sanshonin (三聖人, lit. three saints) as the quota of hijiri was three. The position of hijiri is believed to have been established when the statue of Kukai was enshrined in Sai-in Kyozo (西院経蔵, Sai-in Library) in 1233.

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How to become a kuso monk

Kuso (供僧) refers to a group of monks of Toji who were allowed to attend hyojo (評定, meetings) and conduct Buddhist services as members of monastic organizations, including Nijuikku-kata (廿一口方), Gakushu-kata (学衆方), and Chinjuhachimangu-kata (鎮守八幡宮方). The prescribed number of kuso varied depending on the organization, and a new kuso monk was chosen only when there was a vacancy.

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Hyojo-hikitsuke reveals Japan of medieval times

Nijuikku-kata Hyojo-hikitsuke Web Page
Item (41) of Tenchi-no-bu, “Nijuikku-kata Hyojo-hikitsuke,” Chapter of March 4, 1478

Hyojo-hikitsuke (評定引付), records of meetings organized by kuso (供僧) monks, allows us to understand the situation of Japanese society in medieval times.
The hyojo-hikitsuke above was written by kuso monks of Nijuikku-kata (廿一口方) around when the Onin and Bunmei War ended. The chapter of March 4, 1478, states that when the country was at peace, in other words, when there was no war, Toji collected 40-50 kanmon in offerings a day, and that the number of visitors was expected to increase on sunny days. This allows us to presume that Toji was worshipped by a great number of people crowding the premises of the temple.

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Each monastic organization within Toji had a leader called nengyoji (年行事, also called bugyo “奉行” or nenyo “年預”.) The nengyoji was chosen from among kuso monks, the leading members of the organization, and assumed responsibility for operating the organization for a year.

Nijuikku Nenyo-ki
Item (3) of Tsuika-no-bu, “Nijuikku Nenyo-ki,” 1404

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Discard or preserve

Nijuikku-kata Meio-ku-nen-chu Hogono-uchi-yo Sutebun-bunsho Mokuroku web page
Item (206) of Box-ke, “Nijuikku-kata Meio-ku-nen-chu Hogono-uchi-yoshabun-bunsho Mokuroku,” 1500

The document above, written in 1500, is a list of documents the bugyo of Nijuikku-kata planned to discard but decided not to. Sorting out documents to preserve from a large number of documents brought from inside and outside the organization was one of the bugyo’s duties. The documents preserved in the Sai-in Library were a few that had survived the selection by the successive bugyo.
The list includes 24 documents, 17 of which are extant today.

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Removal and return of documents

The documents housed in Sai-in Bunko (西院文庫, Sai-in Library) of Mieido (御影堂) were sometimes removed from the library to study previous precedents or to use as evidence at trial. Any person who removed documents from the library was required to write his signature in a book called “Sai-in Bunsho Suito-cho (西院文庫出納帳),” which still provides details of what documents were removed and returned by whom 500 years ago.

Monjo Suito-nikki web page
Item 113 of Box-sa “Monjo Suito-nikki,” December 6, 1459

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The rules of hyojo: Being late or absent was prohibited

The monastic organizations established within Toji were operated independently and each organization decided important matters in meetings called hyojo (評定). The documents of Hyakugo Monjo show how hyojo was organized by leading members of the organization, who were referred to as kuso (供僧).

Toji Chinjuhachimangu Kuso Hoshiki Jo-jo web page
Item (10) of Box-hi, “Toji Chinjuhachimangu Kuso Hoshiki Jo-jo,” February 1342

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The management of documents (including a 500-year-old document) at Toji in medieval times

Hozo Hason Monjo-nado Shoshutsu-nikki web page
Item (14) of Box-ko, “Hozo Hason Monjo-nado Shoshutsu-nikki,” July 14, 1402

The document above is a record of documents removed from the treasure house for restoration work in 1402, around the middle of the Muromachi period. The document reveals that six documents and a bound book were removed from the treasure house. One of the six documents was “Shobo-betto Bunin-kanpu (聖宝別当補任官符),” an official document appointing Shobo, a monk who founded Daigo-ji Temple, to a position called bonso-betto (凡僧別当, head monk) of Toji in 902. Toji had preserved this 500-year-old document and restored it for future use. Toji had a strict management system to preserve and utilize its documents.

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Let’s learn about Toji Hyakugo Monjo!

Nijuu-ikku-kata Hyoujou-Hikitsuke web page
Item 17 of Box-chi “Nijuu-ikku-kata Hyoujou-Hikitsuke,” 1462

Toji Hyakugo Monjo is a collection of “ancient documents.”
You may think of ancient documents as old pieces of paper on which undecipherable kanji characters have been written with a brush and India ink.
You may also think that reading ancient documents requires a great deal of knowledge and effort because you will need to decipher each character in cursive form and look up every word you do not understand in a dictionary.

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