NITTA YOSHISADA FIVE-TIERED MONUMENT
Nikkawa Aza 13 Tsuka 2728 Niisatocho, Kiryu City
Designated a City Important Cultural Asset, October 1, 1971
|Zenshoji Temple is the oldest temple in the Niisato area. This temple belongs to the Tendai Sect of Buddhism, founded by Tenkyotaishi who visited Kozuke-no-Kuni (former name for the Gunma area) in the year 806. At that time, he had his disciple, Yukai establish the temple and named it Daidoji.
Later, when Nitta Yoshisada was killed in battle at Fujishima in Etchizen (now Fukui Prefecture), his head was secretly carried back by Momoijiro Naotsune and presented it to the Retainer Funada Nagato-no-Kami Yoshimasa. Yoshimasa received the head of the lord reverently and buried it with proper funeral rites. Yoshimasa remained there for the rest of his days. After that, the temple name was changed from Daidoji to Zenshoji (in Japanese the kanji characters for Yoshimasa can also be read as Zensho).
Among the 40 some stone monuments at Zenshoji Temple, the largest and most
centrally situated is that of Nitta Yoshisada. It is said that the head
of Yoshisada is buried under this monument. The stone monument is 2.1 meters
tall and is composed of andesite rock. The other stone monuments nearby
are much smaller and are composed of porous volcanic rock.
Originally, 5-tiered stone monuments were constructed from 5 separate stones. From the top, they are referred to as "kurin" (air wheel), "furin" (wind wheel), "karin" (fire wheel), "suirin" (water wheel), and "chirin" (earth wheel). Each component stone is shaped differently. Over the centuries, however, the kurin and furin wheels were united and made from one stone. This stone is referred to as "kufurin." The 5-tiered stone monuments at Zenshoji are all made in this "kufurin" style.
Most 5-tiered stone monuments are erected in cemeteries to honor the dead,
however, there are some 5-tiered monuments erected to edify some particular
The man who delivered the head of Yoshisada to Zenshoji temple, Momoijiro
Naotsune, went to Nikkawa Oya, about 1.5 kilometers southeast of the temple,
and following the example of his liege lord, Nitta Yoshisada, committed
ritual suicide. At that place there was a flat rock, which even now is
called the "hara-kiri" (ritual suicide by disembowelment) rock.
Locally it is called the Momoitsuka rock. There are several stone monuments
in this area as well and the place has been designated an Historical Site
by the city.
At this site, a volcanic "suirin" stone from a 5-tiered stone monument was discovered among some buried stone objects. Perhaps Momoijiro's gravestone was also a 5-tiered stone monument, which is why the place came to be called "Momoitsuka." (The Japanese word "tsuka" refers to a mound or tumulus.)