Tenkai (1536-1643) was a high priest of the Tendai Sect at the beginning of the Edo Period, He was also known as Jigen Daishi. He took orders at age ll. At 14 he climbed Mt. Hiei and began formal training in the precepts of Tendai Buddhism. With the founding of the Tokugawa bakufu government at Edo (Currently Tokyo), Tenkai received the favor of Tokugawa Ieyasu. Upon the death of Ieyasu, he was permitted to take a saintly name in order to deify the Tokugawa founding shogun. At roughly the same time the basic designs of the shrine at Nikko were being laid out and Tenkai served as an advisor in its construction. Following this, he also benefited from the attention of both Shōguns Hidetada and lemitsu and was installed at the newly built Kaneiji Temple in 1625 for the spiritual protection of Edo Castle.
In 1643, at the age of 108 he passed away at Hongakuin Temple, a branch temple of Kaneiji, and as ordered, was buried on Mt. Nikko. A pagoda to commemorate him was built at this site, and later, priest of Hongakuin built a second pagoda in order to house a lock of his hair. Thus this pagoda has come to be called the Hair Pagoda.