NIKKŌ (1246–1333), Japanese Buddhist priest and one of the chief disciples of Nichiren (d. 1282). Although Nichiren did not designate a particular successor, on his deathbed he selected six of his senior disciples, Nisshō (1221–1323), Nichirō (1245–1320), Nikō (1253–1341), Nitchō (1252–1317), Nichiji (1250–?), and Nikkō, to carry on his work. Following the death of Nichiren, these six decided among themselves to assume care on a rotating basis of the temple named Kuonji that had been founded at Mount Minobu by Nichiren in 1281. Under this agreement, the priests, assisted by disciples living in the area, resolved to take up residence at the temple in one-month shifts. Political circumstances, however, intervened to frustrate their plans. Nikkō and Nichiji, who were living near Minobusan, faced little difficulty in fulfilling their obligations, but the other priests came under considerable pressure from Nagasaki Yoritsuna, minister of war and a powerful foe of the Nichiren group, and thus were unable to leave the capital city of Kamakura. In 1285, Nikkō agreed to a request by Nambu Sanenaga, a patron of the temple, and the other five senior disciples that he take up permanent residence on Minobusan. By 1288, Nikō was able to join Nikkō there following the relaxation of Yoritsuna's efforts to suppress the order.
Later, Nambu Sanenaga made an image of Śākyamuni Buddha and worshiped it. Nikkō contended that the image of the Buddha should be accompanied by companion images of the four disciples of the "original" Śākyamuni in order to distinguish it from that of the "historical" Śākyamuni. Nikō, on the other hand, was inclined to permit worship of the icon unflanked by images of the four disciples. When Nambu Sanenaga sided with Nikō, Nikkō left Minobusan and in 1288 founded the Kōmon-ha subsect. In 1290 he established his own temple, the Taisekiji, at Ōishi-ga-hara in Suruga province (Shizuoka-ken), and the following year moved to a new hermitage at Kitayama, two miles north of the Taisekiji. In 1298 the hermitage was remodeled into a full-fledged temple and renamed the Honmonji. Nikkō served as abbot of both temples until his death in 1333.
Although Nikkō is not responsible for the formulation of any independent doctrine, he is historically significant for his role in creating the first split in the Nichiren school. Later generations of Kōmon-ha adherents, notably Nichiu (1409–1482), the ninth abbot of the Taisekiji, advocated an identification of Nichiren with the "original" Buddha and prohibited the worship of images, but these doctrines cannot be traced back to the influence of Nikkō.
Works on the life of Nikkō include Hori Nichikō's Fuji Nikkō Shōnin shōden (Tokyo, 1974) and Kawai Hajime's Nikkō Shōnin den (Tokyo, 1976).
Murano Senchu (1987)