The founder of Shin Buddhism, Shinran was exiled to Echigo (present day, Niigata Prefecture) in 1207 after the Imperial Court banned
the Nembutsu (intently praying to Buddha) which was practiced by Shinran’s teacher, Honen.
Shinran came to Echigo accompanied by his wife, Eshinni, because the Imperial Court allowed offenders to bring their wives along
to the places. Then he lived there for seven years until the family moved to Kanto region in 1214.
When Shinran was exiled, his uncle, Hino Munenari lived in Echigo as a vice governer. Also, Eshinni’s father was a government officer
and had a territory in Echigo. Considering these facts, Shinran and his family seemed to have a relatively comfortable life.
However, it is not likely that he had a carefree life in Ehigo. Before he was exiled, he studied in Yoshimizu guided by his teacher and
his religious mentors. He may have had vigorous debates with them. Albeit, now, he had to study by himself in unfamiliar environment.
At the same time, life in Echigo was different from that of Kyoto. In Kyoto, people enjoyed their life as consumers. In Echigo on the
other hands, people produced or collected foods from crops, mountains, rivers and seas. As Shinran lived and saw these people, he
realised their joy and sorrow. The other difference from Kyoto was the sea. He could see a rough sea in the winter and a sun sitting in
a clear day.
We can imagine he saw Gokuraku (pure land) in the sun setting on the horizon. While he lived in Echigo he bore the isolation, and he
deepen his learning of Nembutsu. Then, He decided to spread Nembutsu to the people. Echigo was the place which influenced Shinran’s
life and the teaching of Shin Buddhism the most.
Kotagahama, the place Shinran landed, has a stone monument. On the stone, the words “This is the place where Nembutsu spread” are
carved. These were written by Daiei Kaneko, a scholar of Shin Buddism. He said “There is no doubt that this is the place where Nembutsu
spread, because Nembutsu first became the salvation for the ordinary people in here.
It has been 800 years since Shinran lived in Echigo as an exile. The teachings of Shinran still exists in this land now.
There still remains many heritage places related to Shinran in Echigo and many stories have been handed down orally.