Statues, Drawings, & Paintings of Nichiren
Izumi-ko Nippo (1259-1341) was a leading ‘junior’ disciple of Nichiren who was well known for carving statues of the founder. It is also thought that he engraved board mandalas. Unfortunately, there is not much biographical material available on Nippo. What we do have is shrouded in legend and sources conflict.
The oldest story has Nippo carving three statues from a single camphor wood log while Nichiren was still alive. The first of these is said to have been completed on October 12 1279. All three are said to still exist. However, nobody can agree where they are kept. All of the sources conflict on this.
Among the temples mentioned are: Kyoto Yuseiji, Kyoto Myomanji, Kamakura Myohonji, Kamakura Ryukoji, Taisekji, and Kitayama Myohonji. Also, possibly Hokkeji in Matsumae, Kuon Jyozai in (Taihei Kyodan) Honmonji, and Koizumi Kuonji.
Minobusan Kounji and Ikagami Honmonji are also mentioned; but that is
erroneous. There was likely a statue at Minobusan Kounji, Nikko mentions it in a 1288 letter. However, it is thought that Nikko took it with him when he left in 1288. Taisekiji and, possibly, Kuon Jyozai in, Kitayama Honmonji, and Koizumi Kuonji claim to have the Nichiren Statue that was originally at Minobu until 1288.
Taisekiji also claims to have a Board Mandala carved by Nippo in 1279. It is also thought that Nippo carved a Board Mandala circa 1315, for the 33rd anniversary of Nichiren’s Passing, and it is kept at Katsuyama Myohonji in Yamanashi Prefecture.
It is possible that Izumi-ko carved statues that are kept at all these temples. It is known that he carved posthumous statues of Nichiren; including the one kept at Ikegami Honmonji.
Nichiren had declined to name either a chief overall successor, or even a Chief Abbot for Kuonji Temple at Mt. Minobu. Instead, he named Six Senior Disciples, and asked that they take turns attending to Monobusan Kuonji. In January of 1282, four of the six enacted “Hakasho Mamorubeki Bancho no Koto” {The Shift for Protecting His Mausoleum}.
Each of the Six Elders took one month. Other elders and some junior disciples, twelve in all, were paired up to cover the other six. Izumi-ko Nippo and Jibu-ko Kenshu Nichi’i were assigned to the 8th month. Izumi-ko Nippo and Jibu-ko Kenshu Nichi’i were closely connected with Echigo-ko Nichiben as well as the 6th Senior Disciple Renge-Ajari Nichiji}.
By 1284, the rotation system had failed. There had been a falling out between the landlord Hakiri {Hakii} Rokuro Sanenaga and the two senior most disciples, Nissho Shonin and Nichiro Shonin. In 1285, Nikko Shonin was installed as the Chief Abbot; with Niko Shonin later added as the Chief of Instruction. Nikko and Niko were the 3rd and 4th ranked of the 6 elders.
However, in 1288, a conflict arose between Nikko and Hakiri {Hakii} Rokuro Sanenaga. In October 1288, the disciples began gathering at Minobu for the 7th anniversary of Nichiren’s passing. At that time, Niko Shonin was installed as the first official Chief Abbot of Minobusan Kuonji. Nikko then left for Fuji, with the intention of working with Nichimoku to petition the Emperor for the creation of a Honmon no Kaidan.
At that time Nissho, Nichiji, Nichiben and others also commisioned Izumi-ko Nippo to carve a statue of Nichiren to be installed at Ikegami Honmonji. It was completed in 1289 and is now the only statue of Nichiren kept at Ikegami Honmonji.
Nippo Shonin is also credited with founding several temples, including: Oka-no-Miya Kochoji, Kyusoku Ryushoji, and Jakkozan Ryukoji.