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Genno Shinsho


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Gennoo Shinshoo, Gennō Shinshō 源翁心昭 Genno Shinsho (Shinjo)
Gennoo Zenshi 源翁禅師 Genno Zenji / Zenshi

Shinsho Kugai 心昭空外, Genno Osho 玄翁(げんのう)和尚, a monk of the Soto sect of Zen Buddhism.

(1329 - 1400)
(1329年3月20日)- 応永7年1月7日(1400年2月2日))

源翁和尚坐像 - 那須烏山市指定有形文化財
Statue of Genno at Nasu, Karasuyama town

Born in Echigo no Kuni 越後国.
In 1333 at five years old he entered the temple 国上寺 Kokujo-Ji at his own will and begun his strict religious training, with an unwavering heart and mind 一心不乱 .

In 1344 at age 16 he became an ordained priest.
In 1346 he became the disciple of Zen priest Gasan Jooseki, Gasan Jōseki 峨山韶碩 Gasan Joseki (1275 - 1366) at the temple 能登/總持寺 Soji-Ji in Noto.

From 1352 to 1358, he searched for his own way and walked around in Japan.
At the temple 永泉寺 Yosen-Ji in 出羽国 Dewa, Yamagata, Mogami 最上市, there is one of the seven wonderous stories about him:
Once priest Genno did an exorcism to queten a frog and since that time no voice of a frog his heard in the pond Sugatami no Ike 姿見の池 / 姿見池 of the temple compound.

In 1357 at age 29 he founded 伯耆国 Hoki (Tottori) - 退休寺 Taikyu-Ji
At the 源翁寺 Genno-Ji in Hoki there was once a fire. The head priest of that time painted a water dragon, said to be from the Chinese temple Kinzan-Ji 金山寺, to appease the flames and let the painting float in a barrel. Then he used the water to extinguish the flames

In 1358 at age 30 a large old cedar tree in the temple compound fell to the ground and from there a hot spring began to flow. So the name of the temple was changed from 雲泉寺 to Onsen-Ji 温泉寺 "Temple of the Hot Spring".
He took the stem of the old cedar tree and carved a statue of his teacher, Gasan Joseki.

In 1360 at age 32 on the invitation of the Daimyo, he came to 下野国 Shimotsuke (Tochigi) and founded temple Senkei-Ji 泉渓寺.

In 1364 at age 36 he came back to Echigo and the "Hot Spring Temple".

In 1367 at age 39 he settled in Aizu at a small retreat in the compound of the temple Keitoku-Ji 慶徳寺. Soon the Lord became aware of his great powers, but he could not keep him for long.

In 1369 at age 41 in Shimosa no Kuni 下総国 he founded Annon-Ji 安穏寺 and stayed there fro 4 years.


In 1375 at age 47 he begun to live at temple Jigen-Ji 護法山示現寺 in Fukushima.
One year later, invited by the Lord of Shirakawa, he founded Jozai-In 常在院.
From there we have the legend of the fox with nine tails and the "murder stone" 殺生石.
One of the splinters from the rock fell down and now there is the rock Hoseki Inari 法石稲荷 in the back of the temple.
The actual event was supposed to have been in August 1385.

smashing the "murder rock" - fox legend -

Legends from the village Omotegomura 表郷村 in Shirakawa 白河郡

At the riverpool Naranokibuchi 楢木淵 a dragon lady heard the preachings of Genno and was then saved from doing bad deeds.
In gratitude she produced a well below the temple at the Sekishoseki. The dragon lady came here every time she had to give birth. Even now there is a stone in the temple compound, which she had hugged and warmed during her labour.

- - - - -

At the time of Emperor Toba Tenno 鳥羽天皇 (1154 - 1103) a white fox from China had come to be the wife of the Emperor. During some exorcism rituals, she showed her real identity and fled to Nasu. Her body became a large black stone from all the blood that flew from her body. Birds who sat on the stone fell down dead soon. So Genno hit the stone and split it into three parts.
One of them is now in the compound of temple 常在院 Jozai-In.


In 1380 at age 52 he found the hot spring Atsushio Onsen 熱塩温泉 and temple Jigen-Ji 示現寺.
- - - - - The Legend knows this:
One day Priest Genno was on his way to 熱塩村 Atsushio Village to help a farmer named 作太郎Sakutaro, who's home was in danger of flooding. The villagers thought the damage was caused by a huge serpent 大蛇. Genno and Sakutaro went to the river together. They saw a huge serpent, trying to give birth under great pain and thus causing the river to go wild. The priest began to chant sutras to take the pain away from the serpent and all of a sudden, the serpent changed into a bridge over the river. At the part of her tail a hot spring begun to flow.
Later the priest founded temple Jigen-Ji to remember this event.

In 1382 at age 54 he was on the road again, this time crossing over to Sado Island by boat.
There he founded temple Toko-Ji 東光寺.

In 1386, one year after he took care of the fox with nine tails and slamming the "murder rock", this story of his fame began to spread all over.

In 1386 at age 59 he received the honorable title of 法王能昭禅師 Ho-O Nosho Zenshi from the Emperor Gokomatsu Tenno 後小松天皇 (1377 - 1433)
The long title is : 能照法王禅師源翁心昭大和尚

In 1387, again on the pilgrim's road he founded 最禅寺 in Akita.
There are famous statues which he had carved, Yakushi Nyorai and the 12 Heavenly Generals
薬師如来像 / 十二神将.

In 1390 at age 62 on request of Lord Muira 三浦貞宗 in Katsuyama, Okayama, he founded temple Kesho-Ji 化生寺, where legend knows a piece of the smashed "murder rock" had fallen down.

In 1395 he founded the temple Gyokusen-Ji 玉泉寺 in Kagoshima (Kyushu).

- Legend from 上県郡 Kamiagata-gun in Nagasaki :
The Empress had fallen ill and the priest Tendō 天道法師 Tendo Hoshi had been called from Tsushima 対馬. He did the exorcist rituals and a fox made its appearance. The fox jumped through the ceiling and disappeared. This fox landed somewhere and became a stone, hurting people in the neighbourhood. This stone was later split by Genno 玄翁.

In 1396 in spring when he stayed at the temple Keitoku-Ji慶徳寺, another piece of the smashed "murder rock" appeared. He gave another lecture and the beautiful white fox showed up, promising not to do any more harm. Then the fox turned into Kannon Bosatsu and disappeared into the sky.
Part of the temple name was now changed to 巻尾山 "Mountain of the twisted hair".
In a shrine of the compound, 、慶徳稲荷神社 the Inari fox is venerated.

In 1400 on the 7th day of the first lunar month he entered eternal rest, after 51 years as a priest 法臘 at the age of 72.
His grave is at temple Jigen-Ji 示現寺, part of his bones 分骨墓 are venerated in a grave at the temple Annon-Ji 安穏寺.

He founded various temples in Japan :
In Akita : 最禅寺 and 東光寺
In Kagoshima : 玉泉寺
In Niigata : 雲泉寺, 東光寺 , 慈眼寺
In Yamagata : 永泉寺 - 正法寺 - 冷泉寺 - 冷岩寺 - 普門院

Kaizō-ji 海蔵寺 Kaizo-Ji in Kamakura in 1253.

His grave is in Ibaraki 茨城県結城市.

He is famous for the many stories where he exorcised local monsters and demons.
He smashed the famous "murder rock", 殺生石 Sesshoseki, in August 1385, with his tsue 杖walking stick.
This is the reason why a strong hammer, the gennoo 玄能, is now named after him.

The most famous legend about him is maybe the exorcism of the poisonous dragon 毒龍.


Gennō Shinshō helped domesticate the recently arrived school of Zen by exorcising troublesome local spirits.
One legend describes the “killing stone” of Mount Nasu,

It is said that in the Muromachi period, Genno osho who opened 元現寺 Gengen-Ji Temple in the Aizu district of Fukushima, destroyed Sesshoseki the "murder stone" 殺生石, and pieces of the destroyed Sesshoseki flew to various parts of Japan:

in Okayama 美作国高田(現在の岡山県真庭市勝山)
in Niigata 越後国高田(現在の新潟県上越市)
in Hiroshima 安芸国高田(現在の広島県安芸高田市)
All theses towns have TAKATA 高田 in their naming.

The gennoo type hammer is double-faced and has two round sides. It is used to split rocks or to hit the back of a chisle. It is basically a tool for stone workers.
Legend says that the priest Gennoo was the first to use such a hammer.

Now it is also called "Daruma Hammer" daruma gennoo ダルマ玄能.

. Hammer types of Japan (gennoo 玄能 ) .


- - - - - Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 "Oku no Hosomichi"
Station 9 - Sesshooseki Hot Spring 殺生石

"the murder stone", "Slaughter Stone" , "Killing Stone"
The hot spring has poisonous yellow water and bees and butterflies can not live there.

no o yoko ni uma hikimuke yo hototogisu

road across a plain --
turn my horse sideways
toward that hototogisu!

- Tr. Ueda -

. - - - Station 9 - Sesshoseki 殺生岩 - Ashino 蘆野 - - - .

source :

A doll of Genno from the Otsu festival 大津祭.


- quote -
Genno Dispels a Ghost & the Evil Dragaon
Genno was traveling through Hoki when he encountered the ghost of the wife of Shimazu Atsutada 島津惇忠, the lord of Kasuga castle.
A lifetime of evil deeds had led the deceased wife to suffer the torments of hell. Every night as she attempted to escape, her ghost appeared, shrieking outside of her grave. The local people were afraid to go out after dark. Genno confronted the ghost, teaching her that anyone who repented of their evil deeds could be saved. That night Atsutada dreamed that his wife had become a Buddha.

The next morning he discovered that it was Genno who had led her to salvation, and in thanks he pledged his financial support to Genno. Shortly thereafter, Atsutada told Genno that for several nights he had observed a light shine out of the sea to a certain spot on a nearby mountain.
Genno interpreted the light as evidence that a Buddhist spirit must be hidden in the mountain. Atsutada, however, told him that at the foot of the mountain lay the pond of an evil dragon. On occasion, the dragon had destroyed local crops and attacked people. Genno walked over to the mountain, seeing with his own eyes the lands wasted, the crops in ruins.

The local villagers begged Genno to protect them from the dragon. As he approached the pond, the wind suddenly howled and the surface of the water boiled. The dragon appeared out of the pond and moved toward Genno. To stop the dragon, Genno chanted scripture. Then, as soon as the dragon became still, he administered the precepts. The dragon was transformed instantly into Kannon Bodhisattva and disappeared into the sky.
The next morning the baleful pond was gone. The site of evil obstructions thus proved the ideal setting for revealing the spiritual power of the precepts and the Buddhist compassion associated with Kannon Bodhisattva.
At that site Atsutada erected a new Zen temple (Taikyuji) for Genno.

— William M. Bodiford, Soto Zen in Medieval Japan,
University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 1`993, pp. 176-178
- source : - Peter Y. Chou


. 河童伝説 Kappa Legends from Fukushima 福島県 .

At the Genpatsunuma ゲンパツ沼 / 源八沼 Genpatsu swamp (Genpachi swamp) a Kappa used to pull horses into the water.
After a priest had prayed at the swamp, the Kappa did not appear any more.
Another version knows that the priest made the Kappa sign a contract not to harm horses any more.
On a rainy night the Kappa would shapeshift into a lady and lure people who walked along there. The Zen priest Genno 源翁禅師 from the temple 常在院 Jozai-In lectured the Kappa about evil deeds and then the Kappa never did anything bad again.

白河郡 Shirakawa gun 表郷村 Omotego Mura


A legend from Shiga, Ikagun 伊香郡 Yogocho village 余呉町

A fox with nine tails had come from China and transformed into a princess. But when she put a ring of the feathers from a white dove around her neck, she was found out and had to flee. She landed in Nasu, where she became the "murder stone", and killed people in the neighborhood.
When Genno split the stone, one of the pieces fell down in the garden of a villager from Yogocho.
Every month on the 17th day the family offers red auspicious rice 赤飯 and holds it in great honor. It is not to be made fun of or used as a normal garden stone. but keeps the family safe from disasters.


After reading all the above, there are some questions that I have not yet found an answer to:

How could the legend of the "murder stone" spread so far over Japan in a time without smartphones or handies?
- - - - - and
How could pieces of the stone spread all over Japan, from Fukushima even to Okayama and Hiroshima? Who carried them? And why?

Any hints to answer this are most welcome.
Gabi Greve


Lafcdio Hearn wrote :

Tamamo-no-Mae (玉藻前, 玉藻の前, also 玉藻御前) is a legendary figure in Japanese mythology.
In the Otogizōshi, a collection of Japanese prose written in the Muromachi period, Tamamo-no-Mae was a courtesan under the Japanese Emperor Konoe (who reigned from 1142 through 1155). She was said to be the most beautiful and intelligent woman in Japan. Tamamo-no-Mae’s body mysteriously always smelled wonderful, and her clothes never became wrinkled or dirty. Tamamo-no-Mae was not only beautiful, but she was infinitely knowledgeable in all subjects. Although she appeared to be only twenty years old, there was no question that she could not answer. She answered every question posed to her, whether about music, religion or astronomy. Because of her beauty and intelligence, everyone in the Imperial Court adored her, and Emperor Konoe fell deeply in love with her.

After some time had passed, with Konoe all the while lavishing all his affection on the beautiful Tamamo-no-Mae, the Emperor suddenly and mysteriously fell ill. He went to many priests and fortune-tellers for answers, but they had none to offer. Finally, an astrologer, Abe no Yasuchika, told the Emperor that Tamamo-no-Mae was the cause of his illness. The astrologer explained that the beautiful young woman was in fact a kind or evil (depending on the story variant being told) nine-tailed fox (kitsune Good fox spirit. nogitsune malicious fox spirit) working for an evil daimyo, who was making the Emperor ill in a devious plot to take the throne. Following this, Tamamo-no-Mae disappeared from the court.

The Emperor ordered Kazusa-no-suke and Miura-no-suke, the most powerful warriors of the day, to hunt and kill the fox. After eluding the hunters for some time, the fox appeared to Miura-no-suke in a dream. Once again in the form of the beautiful Tamamo-no-Mae, the fox prophesied that Miura-no-suke would kill it the next day, and begged for its life. Miura-no-suke refused.

Early the next day, the hunters found the fox on the Plain of Nasu, and Miura-no-suke shot and killed the magical creature with an arrow. The body of the fox became the Sessho-seki, (殺生石) or Killing Stone, which kills anyone that comes in contact with it.
Tamamo-no-Mae’s spirit became Hoji and haunted the stone.
- source : Hayato on facebook


- Reference -

Visions of Power: Imagining Medieval Japanese Buddhism
Chapter about Gennō Shinshō
By Bernard Faure
- source :

A Study of Genno Shinsho and his Religious Training in the Mountains
Author: Rikizan Ishikawa (Komazawa University)

玄翁禅師伝現出と真如堂信仰: 玄翁禅師と不思議な出合
月史·小林, 1978

- source : - yokai database

- Reference - Japanese 源翁 心昭 -

- Reference - English -

化生寺 Kesho-Ji in Maniwa, Katsuyama, Okayama 真庭市勝山 
- source :

. Introducing Japanese Haiku Poets .

- KAPPA 河童 water goblin - ABC-Index -


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Gaga, Lady Gaga ガガ

Gamoo Hideyuki 蒲生秀行 Gamō Hideyuki, Gamo Hideyuki - Daimyo of Aizu, (1583 - 1612)

Ganjin 鑒真 or 鑑真 Priest Ganjin Ganjin-Ki 鑑真忌

Gashin Tomomitsu 友光雅臣 - priest at Jogyoji, Shinagawa, Tokyo

. Gedatsu Shoonin, Shōnin Jōkei 解脱上人 貞慶 Saint Gedatsu Shonin Jokei . - (1155 - 1212)

GENJIN 源信 priest Genjin - (687-763)
Genjin-Ki 源信忌 - Eshin-Ki 惠信忌

. Gennoo Shinshoo 源翁 心昭 Genno Shinsho (Shinjo) .
(1329 - 1400) / Shinsho Kugai 心昭空外, Genno Osho 玄翁和尚

Genpin 玄賓 げんぴん Priest Genpin (Genbin) (? - 818)

. - - - GENROKU - Haikai Poets until the Genroku Period
1688-1704 元禄

GENSEI, Saint Gensei, Gensei Shoonin 元政上人
1623―1668)April 28.

Genshin - 恵心僧都原信 Eshin Sozu Genshin (942 - 1017) priest

GENYOSHI, Kadokawa Genyoshi 角川源義 - October 27. (1917-1975).
Founder of Kadokawa Book Store - Genyoshi Ki 源義忌

GETTO, Aoki Getto 青木月斗
March 13. 1879–1949). Haiku poet.

Gichiku 宜竹 Too Saburo 藤三郎 - Kaijo Shuurin 景徐周麟 (1440 - 1518) Shakuhachi player

Gion Nankai (1677-1751)
source :

GIOO, Gio 祗王 the dancer Gio, mistress of Kiyomori

. Glover, Thomas Blake Glover トーマス グラバー (1838 - 1911) . Merchant in Nagasaki

. Godaigo Tennoo, Go-Daigo Tennō 後醍醐天皇 Godaigo Tenno, Daigo II . - (1288 - 1339)

. Goemon, Ishikawa Goemon 石川五右衛門 . -(1558 - October 8, 1594) outlaw hero

GOETHE, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (28 August 1749 – 22 March 1832). Germany
Goethetag, 28. August

GONSUI, Ikenishi Gonsui 池西言水 September 24. 1650-1722.
Haiku Poet, friend of Basho. Gonsui Ki 言水忌

. Go Saga Tenno, Gosaga Tenno 後嵯峨天皇 "Saga the Second" . (1220 - 1272)
and his son Kameyama Tenno 亀山天皇.

Goshirakawa 後白河天皇 Emperor Go-Shirakawa (1127 - 1192)

. Gotoo Nuinosuke 後藤縫之助 / 後藤縫殿助 Goto Nuinosuke . - Kimono dealer in Edo

Goto Takatoshi (Gotoo Takatoshi) 1968 - . Takatoshi Gotoh

Gyooei Koji 行叡居士 Sennin Gyoei Koji - around 778

Gyoki Bosatsu 行基菩薩 Gyooki

Gyuumei san 牛鳴さんのだるま <> Paintings of Mr. Gyumei