Pilgrimage, art and architecture
There are several temples that have been pilgrimage centres for Nichiren Buddhists throughout the centuries, including Mount Minobu, Ikegami Hommon-ji, and other sites associated with the life of Nichiren (Montgomery 1991: 198). However, the head temple of Nichiren Shoshu – the Taiseki-ji, founded in 1290 – was not considered a major pilgrimage centre until it was visited by the second Soka Gakkai president, Josei Toda, upon his release from prison. Finding it in a state of neglect, he decided to revive it.
The significance of the Taiseki-ji for Toda was that it contained the Dai-Gohonzon(Montgomery 1991: 198). He and his successor, Daisaku Ikeda, made the revival of the Head Temple their priority. By the 1970s, Taiseki-ji was receiving more than 3.5 million pilgrims a year, surpassing Lourdes in France. In 1972, Ikeda inaugurated a new Grand Main Temple, the Sho-Hondo.
In the words of Ikeda, published in the Seikyo Times – the Soka Gakkai’s newspaper – in December 1972 (Montgomery 1991: 199):
Thus completed, the great building lies in all its splendour, immaculately white and brilliant in the brightness of the sun, a magnificent sight in central Japan. It soars towards the sky which is permeated with the immortal life of the universe, and rivals the sacred peak of Fuji in dignity. To the south, it commands the cobalt blue of the pacific, the unbounded expanse of water which reminds one of the infinite wisdom of the Buddha. Its figure is graceful, its appearance spectacular, perfectly blending with the perpetuity of the surrounding landscape. Where can a match be found for this edifice, either in solemnity or in grandeur?
However, Soka Gakkai members stopped visiting this temple when SGI split from the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood in 1991. Some of the temple buildings were destroyed by Nichiren Shoshu between 1998 and 1999, but other buildings remain.