Last weekend I visited Kamakura south of Tokyo, one of Japan’s ancient capitals and wonderful city by the Pacific Ocean. The weather was interesting, going from ominous black clouds to brilliant sunshine to short rains all through the day. I guess most people stayed indoors that day. I visited the Kotokuin, the temple that is most famous for its giant Buddha statue built in 1252. Originally the statue was housed in a wooden buildings but Japan being the land of earthquakes, tsunami and typhoons, it has been destroyed many times since then. I also found a very tiny hidden statue, the sixth photo, inside the temple grounds that I had never seen before. I wonder how many people walk past it every day without noticing it?
This temple was visited by the poet Rudyard Kipling in 1892 and was made famous in his writings during the following years. It is possible that the prior of the temple was inspired by Kiplings poem and maybe the surge in foreign tourists to post the unusual sign asking visitors to behave inside the temple grounds? The sign is posted before the entrance but easily missed I guess, and written in wonderfully old fashioned Japanese and English.
I thought the first night of the massive Oeshiki ceremony in Tokyo’s Ikegami district was pretty crowded, seeing as the out of town participants usually don’t show up until the second night. It turns out I was just lucky being in the right place at the right time as I caught most of the local teams as they pulled up for huge group photo on the beginning of the procession route towards the temple on top of the hill. Several teams and their leaders lined up in front of the official photographer and I sneaked right up to him, almost just below his ladder. I think the main guy in the photos were the leader of the local teams but I could be wrong. Still, they were all very photogenic!
More photos from the first of the three nights of the massive buddhist Oeshiki ceremony in memory of saint Nichiren in Tokyo’s Ikegami district. Followers of the Nichiren buddhist sect from all over Japan (and I think I spotted a few foreign monks as well) gather to celebrate at the sect’s main temple, the Ikegami Honmonji temple. The festival is famous for the matoi dancers which are usually reserved for firefighters, and the huge mando, the festive and lit up miniature temples carried or pulled in the parade that winds its way through town until it reaches the main temple building. The first night is dedicated mostly to local teams and youth teams and they don’t actually enter the temple grounds. I followed the parade around and took these photos of the probably very fit matoi dancers. The temple itself is nearly deserted compared to what it will look like the next evening. The last night of the ceremony was yesterday, but if you are in Tokyo during early November there is another Oeshiki in Zoshigaya near Ikebukuro that is not as crowded but just as intense. Enjoy!
Last night was the first of the three day long Oeshiki ceremony at Tokyo’s Ikegami Honmonji temple. The history behind this unique and rare buddhist festival is complicated but I did my best to explain it a little in this post from last year. The first night is merely a warm up, lots of people still turn up and the yatai (street vendors) are out in force! Most teams are busy preparing for the coming two days of dancing, chanting and manhandling the huge matoi poles through the streets of Ikegami. I caught one group practicing right next to the pagoda at the temple, but a few youth groups were out to give the coming generation a chance to get some live practice! Some of these matoi poles can be very heavy, I have heard of some that were as heavy as 80kg but no one can handle something like that for more than a few seconds I think. One of the teams had a great trio of wooden toy dogs all lit up and decorated following them around. Very popular with the crowd! The main ceremony takes place tonight and tomorrow night so there’s is still a chance to get down to Ota Ward and enjoy! This festival is actually very dark, the photos make it look all bright and clear but in reality it is much darker than the it looks like based on these photos. You have to go there and see for yourself!