Hijiri (A Japanese Buddhist Priest Who Traveled Around Local Provinces) (聖)

"Hijiri" refers to a Japanese Buddhist priest who traveled around local provinces.


Hijiri originated from "hishiri," which was the celebrant or the shaman of the sun. After Buddhism was introduced into Japan, a priest of high learning and virtue began to be called "hijiri" (written in a Chinese character as "聖").

As Buddhist eschatology diffused in the middle of the Heian period, some priests began to propagate "Jodoshu" (Pure Land Sect of Buddhism) to the public. These priests were called "nenbutsu hijiri" ("nenbutsu" [Buddhist invocation] chanting priests), and they led a semi-secular life; that is, an ascetic life while living in a thatched hut far up on a mountain - not in a temple - or going on a pilgrimage.
In the middle of the Heian period, there existed a famous hijiri named Kuya, who was called 'Ichino Hijiri.'

Groups of hijiri lived in "bessho" (a place separated from a temple), which served as a base of their activities. One of the famous bessho is Koya Bessho on Mt. Koya, and the nenbutsu hijiri living there was called Koya Hijiri.

Genku, living in the later Heian period, was also the nenbutsu hijiri of Enryaku-ji Temple's Kurodani Bessho, and Genku was, along with his pupil Shinran, called "Shonin" (the holy priest).
Ippen, living in the middle of the Kamakura period, diffused nenbutsu chanting to the public while wandering local provinces, and he was called 'Sute Hijiri.'