A Woman Warlord
Ii Naotora is known as a famous female daimyō in the Warring States period. Daimyō were powerful landowners and warlords in the service of the shōgun. Naotora's character became popular thanks to the 2017 season of the Taiga historical drama series that chose her as its main character.
Ii Naotora took on a male pseudonym and displayed admirable political and leadership skills amidst her efforts of saving her clan. Naotora’s friend and advisor, Nankei Zuimon served at this temple in Hamamatsu’s Iinoya. This temple has been acting as the Ii clan’s family temple for forty generations: a memorial tower for Naotora can be found on its grounds, as well as the Ii clan’s graveyard. The Ryotan Temple Garden is a nationally acclaimed scenic spot, beautiful with every changing season.
If you are interested in Japanese history and culture, you should not miss the following sightseeing spots around the Hamana Lake. Follow in Ii Naotora’s footsteps and discover more about her adventurous, albeit stormy life!
The Family Temple where the Ii Ancestors Rest
The Ryotan Temple is located in Shizuoka Prefecture, the city of Hamamatsu, at a very scenic spot in the Inner-Hamana-Lake, a strip of land that extends into the lake itself. The temple itself is affiliated with the Rinzai sect of Buddhism, founded by the bodhisattva Kyōgi in 733. The temple changed its name after the posthumous Buddhist name of Ii Naomori, who died at the battle of Okezahama in 1560.
The Ryotan Temple serves as the resting place for the spirits of the Ii clan leaders such as Ii Naochika and Ii Naotora. On top of that, the forest surrounding the temple was chosen as one of the hundred most relaxing forest walks in Japan. Taking a walk among the lush green trees and the calming silence, you will surely be a part of a relaxing, spiritual experience.
After the temple gardens being selected as a nationally acclaimed scenic spot, and a number of items belonging to the Ii clan including a basket with the first character of their family name, the temple with its six compounds were chosen as an important tangible cultural property of Shizuoka Prefecture.
Make sure to look up at the main gate that boasts four beautiful supporting pillars as you pass by under it.
The kuri of a Buddhist monastery is the dwellings of a head priest and his family, and the kitchen area of the monastery. The current building was erected in 1815, and it is remarkable for its large-sized gable.
This type of temple hall is used to commemorate its founder. Located west from the main temple, this hall is dedicated to Zuifuchi Kashō. It is a multi-story building in vermillion colour. The family crest of the Ii clan is hung on the top of its tower.
The engraving of a dragon in the memorial hall
An inari shrine worshiping Masayume Inari
The Incredible Life of Ii Naotora, the Woman Warlord
She was born as the only child of the twenty-second head of the Ii clan, Naomori. As Naomori had no sons, he promoted the betrothal of Naotora to her cousin Naochika, in order to ensure the continuity of their clan. However, her father was assassinated by the Imagawa clan, and as Naochika was also targeted by them, he fled the Ii clan’s domain and took refuge in Shinshū.
Thinking that Naochika was dead, Naotora decided to take on the name of Jiro and entered the priesthood at Ryotan Temple. She reunited with Naochika later, however, he already married a daughter from the Okuyama clan, and thus their marriage was called off.
Her father died at the battle of Okezahama in 1560, then Naochika was assassinated as well, and the Ii clan lost their possible successors one by one. Under these circumstances did the head priest of the Ryotan Temple take Naotora under his wings, giving her protection at the temple. He raised her to be the domanial lord of the Ii family, thus saving the clan from impending extinction.
Joroku Buddha statue erected in 1729
The Ii clan's mausoleum
The inner temple
The Ii clan's graveyard
Picturesque Temple Gardens
The garden was established as the north garden of the main temple hall, the garden with the pond was made by Kobori Tōtomi in the early Edo period. It was selected as a nationally important cultural property in 1936. The garden itself represents the ideals of the Daoist master, Hōrai Shinsensō, including perpetual youth and longevity, and eternal prosperity.
On both sides of the pond, you can find deities who protect the entire temple grounds, including Nio Guardians of Buddhism, stones for divine worship (zazen stones), and protective stones in the middle of the garden. The hill in the garden represents mountain ranges, while the pond, resembling the character for heart and soul, represents the great seas. You can also find the crane and the turtle motifs that are also considered as symbols of longevity.
Moreover, the temple gardens look picturesque in every season. In March and April, the cherry blossoms and the double-flowered cherry trees are in bloom and you can enjoy the gorgeous azaleas from May to June. In the rainy season, the hydrangeas are in bloom, and a lot of people come to enjoy the view of the autumn leaves from November to December when the weather begins to get cold. In the lonely winter period, the plum and camellia flowers start coming out, beckoning spring to return.
For those who always wanted to experience the beauty of a Japanese garden, this is a quintessential spot to visit. It is a historically and culturally important spot that can be enjoyed by everyone.
053-542-0480 (please note that assistance in English may not be available)
- Opening Period
9AM ~ 4:30PM (Last entry, closes at 5PM)
15 August and 22 ~ 27 December
Due to events or other circumstances, the garden may be closed at other times as well
Adult (above high school age): 500 JPY (450 JPY for groups)
Child (elementary and middle school age): 200 JPY (180 JPY for groups)
JR Hamamatsu Station -> Entetsu Railway Bus for Shibukawa -> Get off at Iinoyagū-Mae -> Three-minute walk until the temple
※Only available at special periods
JR Hamamatsu station -> Entetsu Railway Bus -> Get off at Jingūdera -> Eight-minute walk until the temple
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Historically Relevant Spots of Hamamatsu
The Shinto shrine of the god revered for learning, granting one’s most earnest wishes, and better fortune
Iinoyagū is located in the Northern Ward of Hamamatsu. The Prince Munenaga of the Nanbokuchō period (1336-1392) is enshrined in this temple. Prince Munenaga was famous for his excellence in scholarship and waka poetry and thus is widely known as the god of scholarship with many visitors who pay a visit for success in their studies. You can also find a votive picture display here with over 1500 picture offerings in the Japanese Votive Picture Archives, as well as historical documents that preserve Prince Munenaga’s own handwriting. You can also see the “Affectionate Mother Kannon” stone carving, depicting a mother holding her son.
This shrine is located right behind the Ryotan Temple, so make sure not to miss it when planning a visit!
053-542-0355 (please note that English assistance may not be available)
JR Hamamatsu station -> Entetsu Railway Bus -> Get off at Jingūdera -> Eight-minute walk
Remains of the Edo Period: a Historic Barrier
Otherwise known as a barrier checkpoint, these checking stations played an important rule during the Edo period of Japanese history. Shortly after the unification of the country, with the emergence of the Tokugawa shogunate in the early 1600s, checking stations like this barrier also began to appear all over the country due to the introduction of the alternate attendance policy.
The alternate attendance policy required the wives and children of domanial lords to move to the Capital, while the lords themselves spent alternating years on their domain and in the Capital. The system described above was mainly implemented in order to prevent a possible insurrection against the military government.
This barrier is designated as a special national landmark, as it is the only remaining barrier from the Edo period in the whole country. In the Edo period, fifty-three such barriers existed all over Japan. They were established by the military government and mostly used to inspect women travellers on the road, although men were subjected to scrutiny as well. However, as a permit was needed by both men and women to travel across these barriers, in an attempt to stop unauthorized disembarkation of daimyō wives and relatives from the Capital, especially women from samurai families were required to go through strict examinations.
You can find the remains of the barrier, the guardhouse, the study, the inspectors’ dwelling and the guards’ dwelling. Other than the historical remains, it is also possible to visit a museum that exhibits permits used by women to pass by these barriers, and historical records on Edo period transportation, as well as miscellaneous tools used at the checking point.
Tokutomi Sohō’s Calligraphy – Old Tōkaidō Gate
You can find the famous Meiji and Shōwa period historian and critic, Tokutomi Sohō’s calligraphy here, which he completed when passing by the Shinkyo barrier during his travels to Kumano.
Aratame Onna - Female Inspectors
Aratame onna were stationed at barriers, and were employed to inspect women (especially wives of domanial lords) who were travelling past the checking gates. Their duty was mainly to ensure that nobody was assuming a false identity by cross-dressing or other manners. The main fear of the military government was that the wives of daimyō would escape from the Capital without prior permission in the guise of a nun, or a man.
The Gate Splash Block
These blocks were used to gather rain water and lead it away properly from the barrier grounds. Because of their shape, they are also called a platypus or a duck’s beak.
- Business Hours
9AM ～ 5PM (last entry at 4:30PM)
- Closure Period
Every Monday (open when Monday falls on a public holiday)
New Year’s holiday period (26 Dec ~ 2 January)
- Entrance Fee
Adults 310 JPY
Children 100 JPY
9 minutes on foot from JR Shinkyomachi Station
The pictures displayed are for illustrative purposes only.
Please note that the prices, the opening times, and other details mentioned in this article may be up to change depending on the circumstances.