Ishiku is craftsman processing stone materials, and also called as Ishikiri (stone cutters).
Masons born in the area of Takato Domain are called as “Takato Ishiku (Takato Masons)”, because they had excellent techniques. They went around the country to make stone works such as Buddha statues, towers, bridges, gates for Shinto shrine, and stone walls.
There are records that Takato Masons participated in stone wall works for Edo-jo Castle and “Shinagawa-ura Hodai (batteries off Shinagawa)” at Odaiba.
Since ancient times, people didn’t know what to do under the fury of the elements so that they prayed fervently to the gods for peaceful life and good harvests.
In the Edo Period of peace and stability, folk religion praying to gods and Buddha got up stream as symbols for faith. Creation of stone Buddha statues increased in the Genroku Era (early in the Edo Period). Masons of high income increased as higher demand for stonework. Takato Domain promoted to people “Traveling Mason” (going work away) to help finance of the domain. It is said that the number of masons in the domain was several hundred at peak.
Many of Takato Masons were second sons or later in farm families of mountain communities with small farm. They were generally farmers and went work away in agricultural off-seasons. But professional masons increased because of many jobs and higher income than other craftsmen such as carpenter.
Stone statues watching community
Along with Tsuetsuki-kaido (a highway in the Edo Period) connecting Suwa and Takato, you can see many stone Buddha statues integrating into rural scenes. The most of the statues gather at the entrance (boundary) of each community. Bato Kannon statues, Koshin towers and Dosojin (god) images are included in them.
These are the symbols of folk religion to pray for prosperity of descendants and safe trips, and have been preserved through many generations since the Edo Period.
The stone statues are still watching the communities in the beautiful scenes of the hometown of Takato Masons.
Stone statues watching community
Moriya Sadaji is the most famous and excellent mason in Takato Masons. He specialized in creation of stone statues and left 336 statues in his life of 68 years.
Sadaji was born in 1765 as the third son of Moriya Magobei in Shioku Village, Fujisawa-go, Takato. Moriya family was running a mason shop since the generation of Sadashichi, the grandfather of Sadaji. Then Sadaji automatically aimed to be a mason. He was affected by his grandfather and father in design and techniques.
Sadaji respected the famous priest Ganou Osho in Onsen-ji Temple (Suwa City) as his teacher for Buddhism. He became a Buddhist and produced prayerful stone Buddha statues based on Buddhist scriptures and Giki (rules of rites). It is said that he read a scripture and burned incense for stonework, in order for concentration. These are the reason why Sadaji is called as a master mason, instead of a simple mason.
In 1831, one year before Sadaji’s death, he looked back over his life to complete the workbook “Ishi-botoke Bosatsu Zaiku” (workbook for stone Buddha statues). The workbook describes that he made stone statues in the present metropolis and 9 prefectures (Tokyo, Kanagawa, Gumma, Yamanashi, Nagano, Gifu, Aichi, Mie, Hyogo and Yamaguchi). He was the only Takato Mason having produced statues in the western Japan area. There are few records of the masons who worked in such wide area. This is the feature of Sadaji. It may be the influence of Ganou Osho, who would have understood Sadaji and promoted him in every province of the country as a mason.