Kanjin (勧進)

Kanjin was work done by Buddhist monks in connection with missionary activities intended to bring relief to people.

Specifically, some monks directly encouraged people to recite nenbutsu (Buddhist prayers) or jukyo (chanting or reading the sutras), and others called for people to offer money for building, repairing and remodeling a new temple or statue. Since the middle ages, Kanjin has generally meant the latter.

What is Kanjin?

Kanjin refers to the work of monks in which they encouraged or persuaded followers and supporters to offer money for building and repairing temples. Originally it meant to lead people to butsudo (Buddhist teachings) in order to do good deeds through donations, but in later years it generally meant to hold entertaining performances as a means of collecting donations and devoting the collected admission fees to kanjin. In the middle ages, kanjin was a source of funds for public works ranging from the construction and maintenance of bridges and roads to the building and repair of kanji (state-sponsored temples) (including temple bells, Buddhist statues and handwritten sutra), although the Chotei (Imperial Court) or kokuga (provincial government) should have done so. Monks engaged in kanjin would tour the countryside, carrying with them a book called Kanjin cho (described below) and collecting contributions by offering Isshi Hansen (a piece of paper for a half-mon (currency) meaning very little) at the feet of bridges or in front of temple gates.

Activities of kanjin-hijiri

Initially, monks called kanjin-hijiri, kanjin-so or kanjin-shonin were mainly engaged in kanjin. They would tour the countryside, preach sermons and collect contributions of money and rice from people. They took only necessary expenses from the collected contributions and devoted the rest to works for the public. Famous kanjin monks included Gyoki in the Nara period, and Kuya and Gyoen in the Heian period. Some nuns who participated in kanjin activities were called kanjin bikuni. There were, however, many nuns who didn't fit the original definition of kanjin bikuni; some of the kanjin bikuni were miko (shrine maidens) who looked like nuns due to the influence of shinbutsu shugo (syncretism of Shinto and Buddhism), and others in the early modern times were engaged in sexual activities. Nevertheless, more than a few kanjin bikuni whose services are highly recognized; for example, Seijun in the Sengoku Period (Period of Warring States) were engaged in kanjin as the means to rebuild temples.

The Spread of Kanjin

It was in and after the twelfth century that these kanjin activities were generally accepted by people and spread throughout society. Kinpusen-ji Temple's bell in Yamato Province (Nara Prefecture) was made in 1141 through the kanjin of a kanjin-so called Dojaku, and Uji-bashi Bridge in Yamashiro Province (Kyoto Prefecture) and Seta no karahashi Bridge in Omi Province (Shiga Prefecture) which were under Chotei (Imperial Court) control were repaired and maintained through kanjin in the twelfth century. Seki-dera Temple, in Omi, was also reconstructed in 1179 through the kanjin of monks from the Jodo Shinshu (the True Pure Land Sect of Buddhism).

The position of Todaiji Dai Kanjin shoku

In 1180, Todai-ji Temple burned to the ground in the fire of the southern capital set by the Taira clan government. Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa, who felt concern about this destruction, asked monks to cooperate in the reconstruction of Todai-ji Temple through kanjin, and in 1181 he appointed Chogen to the position of Dai Kanjin shoku in order to lead the monks in their activities.

Chogen, who was then 61 years old, organized monks (kanjin-hijiri and kanjin-so) as well as engineers and craftsmen to handle the engineering and decoration works so that the monks could collect the funds needed for rebuilding the temple and the engineers and craftsmen could start rebuilding the temple with the funds they'd collected. Chogen himself asked Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa and Kanezane KUJO, in Kyoto, and MINAMOTO no Yoritomo, in Kamakura, to make jozai (donations). Todai-ji Temple was rebuilt through the efforts of Chogen and people organized by him, although they had faced many problems during the construction process. Chogen also asked Saigyo to travel to Ou (Mutsu and Dewa provinces) to collect donations of sakin (gold dust) for the rebuilding of Todai-ji Temple.

The position of Dai Kanjin shoku, a post responsible for rebuilding and managing the facilities of Todai-ji Temple, was taken over; appointed were Eisai (the second), Gyoyu (the third), Enni (the tenth), Ninsho (the fourteenth) and Enkan (the twenty-fourth). Although the reconstruction of Todai-ji Temple was suspended during the Sengoku Period (Period of Warring States) due to financial difficulties, it was completed after Kokei revived the position of Todaiji Dai Kanjin shoku.

The Spread and Change of Kanjin Shoku

This system, which had made possible the reconstruction of Todai-ji Temple, became popular among other temples, and major temples often installed the Kanjin shoku position in order to restrict them. After the revival of the Risshu sect (including the Shingon Risshu sect) during the Kamakura period, the Risshu sect gained a high reputation because it prohibited its monks from having self-interest, obliged them to divide profits (if any) equally among themselves, and shifted its priority from the study of teaching to a close tie with the working class through its missionary works.
Its monks were increasingly appointed as kanjin shoku:

However, as time progressed problems arose, including conflicts among temples over the post of kanjinshoku and the emergence of kanjin shoku, which monopolized profits, concurrently with the decline of the Risshu sect; kanjin shoku became a kind of post that involved vested interest, because the chotei (Imperial Court) and the bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) not only made direct contributions to the Kanjin shoku monks but also offered a shoryo (territory) (for example, all of Sue Province) for making money for the destruction of temples. Furthermore some monks, who earnestly devoted themselves to such construction works, focused more on political negotiations with magnates such as the chotei and bakufu in order to obtain funds for reconstruction instead of collecting money through kanjin. Consequently, some kanjin shoku didn't have such close relationships with kanjin-so monks. It is true that, even with the change in circumstances, many monks worked hard traveling the countryside for the sake of their kanjin activities, but there were those who disguised themselves as monks but in effect begged for money (or some kanjin bikuni who prostituted themselves, as mentioned above). Consequently, the reputation of kanjin monks declined within the circle of temples (including the kanjin shoku monks) as well as among the general public.

Eventually, words beginning with 'kanjin' emerged, stemming from the activities of 'kanjin.'

Kanjin cho

Kanjin cho, or kange cho, refers to a rolled book that describes the objectives of kanjin.

It begins with hotsugan (a vow to attain enlightenment and save people) and explains the kudoku (merits) of praying to Amitabha and reciting a sutra and another kudoku (benefits in this world and for entering into the bliss of Heaven) resulting from monetary donations and good deeds. Kanjin-hijiri monks read and showed this book to people who gathered to hear preaching, and encouraged them to have a relationship with Buddha through donations and good deeds. Paired with kanjin cho was Hoga cho, which recorded the amounts of collected donations.

This is Chogen's kanjin cho for the reconstruction of Todai-ji Temple.

Dear fellow believers:

I hereby request that all believers in Buddhism provide support for our civil engineering project aimed at repairing the Buddhist statue and rebuilding Todai-ji Temple, in accordance with the Emperor's order.

As a sacred Buddhist center that serves to spread Buddhism in Japan, Todai-ji Temple has provided us Buddhist believers with protection from wind and rain by its tiled roofs rising high into the sky. The temple was originally built by the honorable priest Gyoki, at the behest of Emperor Shomu. Its great statue of Buddha was painted with gold collected from all over Japan. It was then consecrated by a venerable Buddhist priest who was invited from across the sea. The famous 80-foot statue of Miroku Buddha, in northern India, sheds the light of wisdom on a Buddhist celebration day every month, while the 50-meter great statue of Buddha at Todai-ji Temple has brought benefits to the Japanese people over many decades. The statue of Buddha at Todai-ji Temple thus rivals or even exceeds the statue in India. It is no wonder, then, that our temple has been worshiped by generations of emperors in Japan. It has also faithfully fulfilled its duty of converting unenlightened common people to Buddhism. Meanwhile, a fire broke out in the city of Nara on the eighth of December (old lunar calendar) last year. The fire spread to our temple, burning down its buildings and reducing the statue of Buddha to ashes. Walking on the riverbanks this spring, we hear people wailing among the camellia trees that stand in the heavy morning mist, and when we raise our eyes to the heavens we feel a mist of sadness clouding our hearts. When we look down at the ground, we feel our sorrow deepen by the dust of ash glowing red in the sun, causing everyone to cry over what we have lost.
Who would not lament the destruction of our temple?
Despite the unbearable sorrow, however, we must summon the courage to reconstruct what has been destroyed instead of grieving over the loss. Let us then follow the example of our ancestors, who took the initiative to build Todai-ji Temple during the Jogan and Engi eras, in order to achieve the reconstruction of the temple under the orders of the current Emperor in collaboration with people from across the country. I therefore urgently request that all Buddhist believers, the rich and the poor alike, work together to the best of their abilities to achieve our purpose. Please respond to our request and give us whatever donation you are able to offer - a piece of cloth, iron scrap, a piece of wood or even half a penny. Then, you will be awarded the highest honor among Buddhist believers in this world and will be allowed to sit in a lotus flower in the next world. You will be blessed with everlasting happiness.
Sincerely yours,

August (old lunar calendar) 1181
Chogen, a Buddhist priest serving to collect donations

Chief Steward and Grand Priest of Todai-ji Temple

A famous program of the Kabuki play entitled "Kanjincho" came from a scene in which Musashibo Benkei recites Kanjincho in front of Yasuie TOGASHI.

Kanjin bune

Kanjin bune was a boat in the middle ages on which kanjin-hijiri monks were sent to promote kanjin. Monks preached mainly on the boats that visited key water-transportation points in order to collect donations. In later years, entertainers were sent to such boats to carry out kanjin activities, and it has been said that some were like floating entertainment halls.

Kanjin Heike

Kanjin Heike refers to a total of 200 phrases of "Tale of the Heike," as narrated by Biwa Hoshi to collect money for temple repairs. To pass on the words and music of the entire Heike tale to the next generation, all the phrases must be recited, but it is said to have taken approximately 90 to 120 hours.

In the article of January 3, 1362 (old lunar calendar) of "Moromori-ki Diary" described that Kakuichi AKASHI, Biwa Hoshi and kengyo (temple or shrine administrators) performed the Kanjin Heike in 1362.

Today, Lord Moromori enjoyed "The Tale of the Heike" in a private performance by Kengyo Kakuichi AKASHI at Gojo Takakura Yakushido Temple.

Gojo Takakura Yakushido' means Byodo-ji Temple (Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto City), which is well known for 'Inabado' of the Kyogen play.

Kanjin Heike were often performed during the Edo period, too; kengyo (temple or shrine administrators) are said to have commonly spent about a month narrating all the phrases on rotation. A record from the Edo period states that such performances provided a golden opportunity for lovers of the tale, because the number of favored phrases most Biwa Hoshi narrated in Heike Biwa was estimated at about 50.

Kanjin Zumo

Sumo Sechie (sumo performed at the Imperial Court of ancient Japan) as a court event was abolished in 1174. Later, sumo took hold in the buke shakai (samurai society) and was held in the residential sites of bushi (samurai).

On the other hand, the Ozumo we see today originates from Kanjin Zumo, which was held during the Edo period to make money for the demolition and construction of shrines and temples. Kanjin Zumo was held mainly in the three major cities of Kyoto, Osaka and Edo. In those days, professional rikishi (sumo wrestlers) were emerging regionally and were invited to compete in Kanjin Zumo.
However, violence continued in the Sengoku Period (Period of Warring States), causing various problems, and Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) issued an order banning kanjin sumo in 1648 on the basis of 'disorderly conduct.'

The ban on kanjin sumo was gradually lifted from the period of Jokyo to Genroku; in Tokyo, restrictions on spectacular sumo matches were significantly relaxed in the 1680s. According to the record, sumo matches resumed at Okazaki-jinja Shrine in Kyoto in 1699 and at the present-day Minami Horie-koen Park (Minami Horie, Nishi Ward, Osaka City) in 1702. Groups of wrestlers are said to have belonged to the Satsuma, Kubota, Nanbu, Tsugaru and Sendai domains, as well as Nagasaki City, Osaka and Kyoto, and the provinces of Owari, Kii, Sanuki, Harima, Inaba and Higo. In Kanjin sumo, each of the Edo zumo, Kyoto zumo and Osaka zumo didn't have its own group of wrestlers; instead, groups of wrestlers were invited from regions to participate in spectacular sumo matches by contract with the organizer of the kanjin.

After the ban on kanjin sumo matches was completely lifted in Tokyo in 1742, the system of Shiki Kanjin zumo (seasonal kanjin zumo) was established in which spring matches were held in Tokyo, summer matches in Kyoto, autumn matches in Osaka and winter matches in Tokyo. The name 'kanjin sumo' continued to be used after its purpose shifted from contributing to the construction of shrines and temples. This is because permission from the government's commissioner of temples and shrines was required in order to hold the sumo matches. The sumo groups in Tokyo and Osaka joined together in 1925 and developed into Dai Nihon Sumo Kyokai (the present-day Nihon Sumo Kyokai (Japan Sumo Association). The name of the title, Kanjinmoto (backer, promoter), remained until 1944, though only nominally; and it is commonly used in reference to an organizer of sumo tournaments in local regions.

Odoma kanjin

There is a traditional lullaby called the "Itsuki no komoriuta" song, which sung in Kuma Gun, Kumamoto Prefecture.
"Odoma kanjin kanjin anhitota cha yokashu yokasha yoka obi yoka kimon"

The song begins with these words:
Kanjin' in this lyric is kanjin, as described in this section, and refers to a beggar. These words means that I am just like a beggar. (In contrast) those guys (rich masters) wear better kimono and obi.

According to folklore, the Taira clan, which was defeated in Jisho-Juei no ran (Jisho-Juei War), settled in Gokanosho (Yatsushiro-City), and the Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) sent samurai warriors such as Kajiwara clan and Dohi clan to the next village, Itsuki Mura, to live there as a means of keeping tabs on the activities of the Taira clan. In later years, the landowner class called Sanju-san-nin shu was formed mainly by the offspring of these samurai warriors, and kosakunin (nago kosaku (tenant farmers of a lower class)) called kanjin had to borrow not only rice fields and vegetable fields but also houses and farm tools from masters in order to earn a living. Girls at the age of 10 were sent out to their landlord's houses or other villages as live-in babysitters. The 'Itsuki no komoriuta' song laments this sorrow.