Published April 2023

Hiroshi Harai

This time's guest is one of the top leaders in the Japanese Buddhist world. I am His Excellency Harai Nichiho, the 138th abbot of the Hokke sect (Honmon school) and the 79th head of Kochoji Temple. Although he was born in a historic temple, he gained experience in sales at a merchant shipping company. He entered Buddhism and is now a priest full of vitality, working on environmental conservation and support for disaster-stricken areas. In fact, we had a lot to talk about with His Holiness, who has deep ties to the Riviera.

Interview: Hanako Watanabe

Execution of the head of Kocho-ji, the head temple of the Hokke sect

Hiho Harai

Harai Nippou

Harai Nippou: His own temple is Aonosan Myosenji Temple in Numazu. 1944 November 21st birthday. He graduated from Waseda University.
After working for Tokyo Senpaku Co., Ltd., he became the chief priest of Myosenji Temple in 1972. Since 2018, he has been appointed as the 79th head of Kochoji Temple.
(1997-2001, 2005-2009 General Secretary. 2019-2021, 138th head of the Hokke sect. 2020-2022, 34th All Japan Buddhist Association Vice-President.)

Is cutting a tree "development"?

- In addition to your role as the leader of the entire sect and the chief priest of a historic temple, you have also been working on environmental issues for many years.

Nichiho: ``Hikari Kochoji Choji Temple'' is one of the four main temples of the Hokke sect, and has a history spanning 750 years that was passed down directly to the founder of the sect in Numazu City, Shizuoka Prefecture. My own temple, Myosenji, is also located in Numazu City, surrounded by greenery. When we talk about ``development'' and ``economic development'' in such places, we start by cutting down trees and building buildings.
Since there are so many trees in front of us, we want to use them easily. A tree that grows too big can look like nothing more than lumber, and on the other hand, leaves that grow uncontrollably are a nuisance to agricultural production, creating shade in the fields.
However, a large tree that can be cut down in about an hour takes 100 years to grow to that size.
Development is the act of human intervention in nature. We have long regarded this as "development" and turned a blind eye to the "destruction" aspect. As a result, Japan was awarded the internationally disgraceful Fossil Prize* at last year's COP27. This is the third year in a row that this prestigious award has been received. The international community is looking at Japan harshly, saying, ``We can't wait any longer.''
We must have the courage to rethink the meaning of development to stop destruction. The time is quickly approaching when it will be too late.

Experience in a private company
Having seen the “worldly world” is an asset

- Your Majesty has been actively speaking at lectures and various symposiums on environmental conservation.

Hiho: That's right, but I've been doing it for almost 40 years, and lately I have a slightly different feeling. When I'm invited to a venue and give a talk, I get a good response from the audience. People can say, ``I heard a great talk'' or ``That was a good lecture.'' But it doesn't continue after that. I sincerely hope that those who feel this way do not stop there, but take action immediately.

- These are harsh words, but do they have anything to do with your background in working in a private company?

Hiho: That may be true. I am a child of a temple, but I am the second son of an era where the patriarchy remained. Since I was not in a position to inherit the family, I wanted to live in a world different from that of Buddhist monks, so I entered the Faculty of Commerce at Waseda University. I learned about rational thinking and practical methods through my research on American shipping policy, and applied to work at a merchant shipping company.
At a time when trade was booming, I used to work as a salesman on all weekends. Just then, his grandfather and father collapsed one after another and passed away.
Then my older brother, who was a teacher, came to visit me while I was working in Osaka and said, ``As someone who grew up in a temple, I can't just let things go on like this.You are the one who is best suited to become a monk.You should inherit the temple.'' ” he said. I was worried about this situation for several weeks, but I decided that I couldn't continue like this and decided to change direction. Before I turned 30, I re-entered a school for monks called Hokke Sect Gakurin.
After graduating junior high school or high school, a typical temple successor goes straight to a school for monks and begins training in Buddhism. It is true that, having been out in the real world, I was coached more harshly than others, saying, ``This is a guy who is surrounded by the worldly world.'' However, it is also true that the experience of seeing a harsh society, not just those of Buddhism, is an asset to me.

- I heard that you were involved with many foreign ships at a merchant shipping company. Does the global perspective you have cultivated through your relationships with people from different countries lead to your efforts to address current environmental issues?

Nichiho: When we say the word "environment," the way it is interpreted varies from country to country and from person to person. Each person thinks differently. I believe that through the experience of working in a job that involves contact with the world, I have learned to consider the background of each person's way of thinking. That may be the root cause of my focus on environmental issues.
The world, especially Europe, is environmentally advanced and prepared.
In that sense, I thought it was a long way off for Japanese companies to obtain Blue Flag, the world's oldest international environmental certification, which is said to be the most stringent and is an environmental certification that has taken root in Europe.

- Your Majesty, have you known about Blue Flag for some time?

Hiho: Of course. While there is a lot of so-called "SDGs wash", I have long been interested in Riviera's efforts to lead Japan's SDGs movement with down-to-earth practices.
At that time, I heard on the news that Riviera Zushi Marina had been awarded the Blue Flag, and I was deeply moved. Riviera's awareness and drive confirmed the seriousness of the company.

- It is inevitable that we at Riviera value sustainability.
The Riviera Tokyo in Ikebukuro, which I visited previously, is celebrating its 73rd anniversary since the opening of the Japanese restaurant Hakuunkaku, and since around 1980, it has been working on regional revitalization through food in the style of a Japanese restaurant.
Furthermore, in 2001, when we started our marina business, we started environmental conservation activities due to a sense of crisis regarding climate change.
Since 2006, we have launched the Riviera Future Creation Project, which has three pillars: the environment, education, and healthcare.

Hiho: I also started environmental conservation activities at a similar time. When he joined Buddhism from a private company and took over as chief priest in the middle of a period of high economic growth, he realized that this was not good enough and decided to start the ``Let's Preserve Greenery and History Association'' to protect the local nature and history. I started exercising. It took eight years to rebuild the main hall and the Kuri, which had been destroyed by the Tanabata Heavy Rains in 1974, and also created the Myosenji Treasures Museum to preserve and display historical materials and create a green forest. We have been working on activities to pass on this information to future generations.

Hiho Harai


Hiho Harai

Company working days

I want to protect people's lives
So tackle the problem

Nichiho: It is estimated that by 2050, the weight of plastic waste in the ocean will exceed the weight of fish. In addition to the problem of microplastics and the effects on humans who eat fish with plastic in their bodies, plastic also exists in the background of global warming, which is said to be the cause of frequent abnormal weather events.
Although people are actively trying to reduce the use of plastic bags, Japanese people dispose of plastic waste second in the world. On the other hand, the United States, the world's No. Plastic packaging of vegetables and fruits is prohibited.
Burying power transmission lines underground, which has become commonplace in Europe and the United States, has not progressed in Japan, and the penetration rate of EVs (electric vehicles) is only 0.9% in Japan. There is a big difference from Norway, which has 54%, and the EU has declared a complete transition to electric vehicles by 2035.
First of all, Japan needs to provide long-term and medium-term guidelines, and each company needs to set short-term and medium-term goals and move toward technological innovation, giving us time to look ahead.
If things continue like this, environmental destruction will progress to an irreversible level. The first to be affected are the lives of small creatures such as insects, birds, and fish in the sea and mountains. The reason I am working on environmental issues is because, above all else, I want to protect the lives of the people I care about. On Earth, where small lives are disappearing, environmental destruction will someday threaten human life.
This is not the time to sit back just because it is difficult due to economic circumstances. I want everyone to pool their knowledge toward bold innovation.

―LOVE OCEAN, which protects the beautiful and rich ocean, is expanding its community with many people who love the ocean, sharing their knowledge, joining hands, and cooperating.

Hiho: I would like to applaud the power and momentum of initiatives such as the ``Riviera SDGs Works Manga Award Exhibition'' and ``LOVE OCEAN'' that go beyond just chants and lead people to actual action. Also, he has continued his daily activities for many years.
These days, it seems that regeneration of seaweed beds in the sea near the sea is also being considered.

- Seaweed beds, which are habitats for fish to lay eggs and grow, are disappearing due to global warming, and sea denudation is rapidly progressing. Restoration of seaweed beds is an urgent need to realize a decarbonized society. Riviera proposes the "Blue Carbon Belt Concept" to address this issue. Since there are no boundaries in the ocean, the idea is that instead of each region taking measures independently, everyone should join hands and connect them in a belt-like manner.The idea is to first spread the measures across Sagami Bay in November 2022. , we are the first company in Japan to begin regenerating seaweed beds inside a marina. Japan is an island country surrounded by the sea. If this Sagami Bay model is expanded horizontally, Japan's entire coastline will be wrapped in a blue carbon belt and its prosperity will be restored in the not too distant future.

Kochoji Temple

Kochoji Temple

Protecting the environment means reviving the earth

Hiho: There's a pleasant word called "kyosei," but I don't think it's a good idea.

- In recent years, we have begun to see the words "coexistence society" everywhere.

Hiho: We cannot live together with products of technology that threaten the environment and life. Fossil fuels and nuclear waste should not be together for a long time to come. If we coexist with things that are not good for various reasons, even if things get better now, the coexistence will not continue in the future. Now that small lives are being affected, we must have the courage to move beyond the lukewarm stage of "symbiosis" and take a step or two to "resuscitation."

- You are also involved in the monument named ``Resurrection''.

Hiho: Immediately after the Great East Japan Earthquake, I went on a pilgrimage to various parts of the Tohoku region, especially Natori City in Miyagi Prefecture, as a memorial service, and witnessed shocking scenes. Natori City, including the Yuriage district, suffered devastating damage. I asked my friend Rintaro Yagi, a sculptor, to help me create a memorial monument. It took 9 years to complete at the end of September last year, and the title of the work is ``Resurrection.''
It is not only a memorial to those who have passed away, but also a wish to ``rejuvenate people's hearts and the environment'' for the future.
Protecting the environment means reviving the earth.To do this, we must first revive people's hearts.Only when the number of people with the heart to revive the earth increases will the natural environment begin to move in the direction of improvement. That's what I mean by "resuscitation" rather than "symbiosis."

Natori City

Monument "Resurrection"

The Lotus Sutra preaches, “This world is the Pure Land.”

Hiho: Of course, economic profit is necessary to live in the present, but even in France, which is known for its individualism, the famous economist Jacques Attali became a hot topic when he preached "altruism."
This is similar to what the Lotus Sutra teaches. ``All things are true and true'' - Everything in this world exists by influencing each other. You will realize that even your own existence is ``being kept alive'' in relationships with each other. He also preaches, ``Sashabasokujakkouba soku jakko'' - transforming this painful world into a beautiful home. If each person lives their life to the best of their ability, and if we all join hands so that such people spring up from the ground, we can turn this world into a Pure Land.

- It's important not just for yourself but for everyone.

Nichiho: Buddha said, ``Eight sufferings (birth, old age, illness, death, love, separation, separation, hatred, desire, unearned suffering, five hardships) The human world is a painful one, but it can be transformed into a land of salvation." When his disciples asked him, ``Who will change me?'', he answered, ``It will be the Bodhisattvas who will come out into the world toward the future (people who can act for their own happiness and the happiness of others).''
Although it is difficult, resuscitation is not just a dream if we all work together. There's still time.

Passed down through generations of the Watanabe family
Great mandala from the Kamakura period

- The Riviera is closely connected to Kochoji Temple, where Gozen-sama is the chief priest.

Nichiho: Kochoji Temple has housed many valuable cultural properties over its long history. In the first year of Koan (1278) during the Kamakura period, we have also kept the ``Twenty-Eight Paper Great Mandala,'' handwritten by Nichiren Daishonin, which was handed down to Todayu on his passing. I am. This is a valuable Gohonzon that has survived many hardships and still exists today.
It is written that ``Yuu Basokuto Udayu Niccho is bestowed upon Hinaga, a female layman named Todayu Hinaga.'' , ancestor of the Watanabe family on the Riviera. The guardian role of the Great Mandala has been passed down through generations of the Watanabe family to this day.

- I have also experienced a child adding flowers to the ``1446-paper Great Mandala Homecoming.'' Nichiho: Ever since Kochoji Temple entrusted the ``Twenty-eight Paper Great Mandala'' in 20, we have continued to uphold that agreement and continue to connect history. is. Regarding the ``Return of the 2000 Paper Great Mandala to Lake Kawaguchi'', which takes place approximately once every 5 years, ``Myohojiki'' describes how a large number of soldiers, horses, and people were assigned to provide strict protection. The last time I went home was in May XNUMX.
Mr. Todayu, a great monk, was awarded a huge mandala (390.2 cm in height x 247.6 cm in width, the largest of the principal images of the sect's founder Goshinsho), which has never been presented to a high priest who is a direct disciple of Nichiren Daishonin. The significance of this is exceptional. I feel like if I analyze this person's name, I can understand the saint's true intentions.
The ``Fuji'' in Fujitayu means ``Fujiwara clan (Hino style)'', and ``Tata Yuuo'' is ``the head of the clan with the fifth official rank.'' In other words, they are people who are supposed to carry out an important mission.
This mandala conveys the message, ``Fudayu, the head of the Fujiwara clan's fifth official rank, serves as a leader and role model for his family and friends, and everyone should work together to do their best.'' Or?

- The keyword "everyone" appears here again. When we think about the history that our ancestors have created over the course of 750 years, the image of what we need to do now for the future expands.
To revive people's hearts and revive the earth together, for a spiritually rich future where we live in harmony with nature.

Kochoji Temple

Kochoji Temple Treasure Store, registered as a national tangible cultural property

Kochoji Temple

Corridor leading to the main hall

*The "Fossil Award" is an award given to countries that have slowed down efforts to combat climate change.

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