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Nichiren was born on February 16, 1222 in the village of Kominato, Nagase District, Awa Province (within present-day Chiba Prefecture). Nichiren's father was Mikuni-no-Tayu Shigetada, also known as Nukina Shigetada Jiro (d. 1258) and his mother was Umegiku-nyo (d. 1267). On his birth, his parents named him Zennichimaro which has variously been translated into English as "Splendid Sun" and "Virtuous Sun Boy" among others.

Nichiren taught devotion to the Lotus Sutra, entitled Myoho-Renge-Kyo in Japanese, as the exclusive means to attain enlightenment and the chanting of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo as the essential practice of the teaching. Nichiren Buddhism includes various schools with diverging interpretations of Nichiren's teachings. While virtually all Nichiren Buddhist schools regard him as a reincarnation of the Lotus Sutra's Bodhisattva Superior Practices, Jogyo Bosatsu, some schools of Nichiren Buddhism's Nikko lineages regard him as the actual Buddha of this age, or the Buddha of the Latter day of the Law.

Nichiren Buddhism is a branch of Mahayana Buddhism based on the teachings of the 13th century Japanese monk Nichiren (1222 - 1282). Various forms of Nichiren Buddhism have had great influence among certain sections of Japanese society at different times in the country's history, such as among the merchants of Kyoto in Japan's Middle Ages and among some ultranationalists during the pre-World War II era. Nichiren Buddhism is generally noted for its focus on the Lotus Sutra and an attendant belief that all people have an innate Buddha nature and are therefore inherently capable of attaining enlightenment in their current form and present lifetime. It is also noted for positioning itself in opposition to other forms of Japanese Buddhism¡ªin particular the Zen, Pure Land, esoteric, and Ritsu schools, which Nichiren saw as deviating from the orthodoxy of Mahayana Buddhism. Nichiren Buddhism is a comprehensive term covering several major schools and many sub-schools, as well as several of Japan's new religions. Nichiren Buddhists believe that the spread of Nichiren's teachings and their effect on practitioners' lives will eventually bring about a peaceful, just, and prosperous society.