The Ikegami Honmomji temple in Tokyo’s Ota Ward is one of the biggest in Tokyo. It was founded in 1282 but the buildings have been rebuilt several times since that, especially after the big bombing raid in March 1945 where most of the temple burnt down. It is the home of the Nichiren sect of Japanese Buddhism and has several large festival in Nichiren’s honor every year. I took these photos after the spring festival last month, which centered on the 17th century pagoda on the temple grounds. An interesting detail of the temple is the memorial stone to the sloop of war, the USS Oneida, which sank outside Yokosuka to the south of Tokyo in 1870. 115 sailors including the captain Commander Edward P. Williams. 61 sailors were rescued by local fishermen. Four of the officers were buried at the foreigner’s cemetery in Yokohama. A local wrecking company bought the wreck from the US government in 1872 and recovered many of the other dead. The bodies were given to the Honmonji temple monks for burial and in 1889 they received a proper ceremony and a memorial, paid for by the wrecking company owners. I have heard that the descendants of the wreckage company owners are still the legal owners of the wreck and the cargo it carried which was never recovered. The wreck is rumored to hold quite a treasure of gold and silver bars that the US government had received in payment for selling arms and gunpowder to the Japanese government.
The last photos of last week’s spring festival and peace prayer at Ikegami’s Honmonji here in Tokyo. The monks file past the firefighters as the rain starts falling. From a purely selfish perspective I was lucky to have a little bit of rain, as it means fewer people attending and it makes it easier to get clear shots of everything that happens in the festivals. When the weather is great the crowds quickly grow! I am really in awe of the spirit of duty in Japanese firefighters. The oldest serving firefighter I have ever met must have been well into his eighties but still taking part in the vital tasks where age is not an issue, he was helping the police cordon off no-go areas after the earthquake in March 2011. Since then I have really started following these firefighters and their performances with the matoi poles and the ladder acrobatics.
I will tell a little bit about the temple itself in once more post this weekend, so stay tuned!
More photos from the ceremony at Ikegami Honmonji last weekend. The ceremony is a prayer for world peace, and the monks hold a beautiful ceremony, moving in procession around the pagoda and chanting their prayers in all eight directions. The ceremony was ended with the ritual release of protective charms in the form of paper petals thrown out from the top of the pagoda. As I was standing in my spot, trying to get a good shot of the charms fluttering down like cherry blossom petals, one of them landed right in my camera bag and a couple of old ladies found it very amusing! I’m keeping the charm in my camera bag after that lucky landing! When the monks return from the ceremony the parade is repeated with the firefighters twirling their matoi. I really like this temple and their colorful rituals!
Once a year the monks at the grand Ikegami Honmonji in Tokyo’s Ota Ward hold a prayer for world peace at a buddhist ceremony at the temple’s pagoda. It is part of the yearly spring festival and the monks are led in procession by my second favorite Japanese tradition, the matoi dancers of the local fire departments. This year’s spring weather has been quite bad with several storms, rain almost every day and very few days of actual sunshine and this Saturday in Ikegami was no exception. The bad weather kept the crowds away so I could get almost as many shots I wanted without having to worry about other people. After a couple of hours into the ceremony and festival the rain started pouring down of course. I have blogged before about the particular branch of buddhism that is practiced at this fantastic temple, just click this tag – 池上本門寺 – to learn more and see more photos. I’ll share more photos of this nice ritual and the rare opening of the pagoda during the week to come!