Nichiren school ［日蓮宗］ ( Nichiren-shū): In general, any Buddhist school that regards Nichiren as its founder, or all such schools taken together. Specifically, the school whose head temple is Kuon-ji in Minobu of Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan. Nichiren nominated six senior priests among his disciples to lead the propagation of his teachings after his death. They were Nisshō (1221–1323), Nichirō (1245–1320), Nikkō (1246–1333), Nikō (1253–1314), Nitchō (1252–1317), and Nichiji (b. 1250). After Nichiren died, divergent opinions developed among the six. Most of the Nichiren schools that exist today can trace their roots to this initial division. The major Nichiren schools can be classified as follows:
(1) The Nikkō school. In 1289 Nikkō left Kuon-ji temple at the foot of Mount Minobu and with his disciples established a temple called Taiseki-ji at the foot of Mount Fuji. Though founded by Nichiren, Kuon-ji had fallen under the influence of Nikō, whom Nikkō had concluded misunderstood and misrepresented Nichiren’s teachings, and who had succeeded in making the steward of the Minobu area his patron. In 1298 Nikkō founded a seminary at nearby Omosu and educated his disciples there. Nikkō’s disciples and followers spread out, while those of the other five senior priests tended to remain localized. Among the temples derived from Nikkō and his disciples, seven major temples including Kitayama Hommon-ji, originally Omosu Seminary, in 1941 became affiliated with Kuon-ji temple on Mount Minobu by the order of the militarist government.
(2) The Nikō school, deriving from Nikō and his disciples. Also called the Minobu school. After Nikkō left Mount Minobu in 1289, Nikō became the chief priest of Kuon-ji temple with the support of Hakiri Sanenaga, the steward of the area. The eleventh chief priest Nitchō (1422–1500) rebuilt Kuon-ji at its present location, on the flank of Mount Minobu. During the Edo period (1600–1867) Minobu enjoyed the support of the Tokugawa shogunate and thereby extended its influence. Prior to the Second World War, many smaller Nichiren schools merged with this school as part of the government effort to consolidate and control religious groups.
(3) The Nichirō school begun by Nichirō and his disciples, which was originally based at Hommon-ji temple in Ikegami and Myōhon-ji temple in Hikigayatsu in Kamakura. In the late Kamakura period (1185–1333), Nichirō’s disciple Nichizō went to Kyoto for propagation. Although repeatedly expelled from that city due to the political influence of other Buddhist schools, he eventually won recognition in Kyoto and in 1321 built Myōken-ji temple there. In 1326 the emperor gave him a tract of land in Shijō in Kyoto; hence his school came to be called the Shijō school. The offshoots of the Nichirō school include the Eight Chapters (Happon) school, which is also known as the Essential Teaching Lotus (Hommon Hokke) school, the Buddha-Founded (Butsuryū) school, and the Nisshin branch of the Lotus (Hokke-shū Shimmon) school.
(4) The Nakayama school, which originally centered around three temples in Shimōsa: Mama Guhō-ji, Nakayama Hommyō-ji, and Wakamiya Hokke-ji. Nakayama Hommyō-ji had been Ōta Jōmyō’s residence, and Wakamiya Hokke-ji had been Toki Jōnin’s family temple. Ōta’s son Nichikō served as chief priest of both temples. Mama Guhō-ji was at first a temple of the Tendai school; when Toki Jōnin converted it, his adopted son Nitchō, who was one of the six senior priests designated by Nichiren, became its chief priest. Much later, a priest named Nitchū and his disciple Nichigen propagated the Nakayama school in Kyoto.
(5) The Nisshō school, also known as the Hama school, deriving from Nisshō and his disciples. Originally it was centered at Hokke-ji temple at Hamado, Kamakura, and Myōhō-ji temple at Nase, both in Sagami Province. Later it became affiliated with the Minobu school.
(6) In addition, there is the No Alms Accepting or Giving (Fuju Fuse) school, founded by Nichiō (1565–1630), a native of Kyoto, and the No Alms Accepting or Giving Nichikō (Fuju Fuse Kōmon) school founded by Nichikō (1626–1698). (See Nichikō; Nichiō.)