Tokyobling's Blog

Asakusa Sensoji Bodhisattva Statues

Posted in Animals, Japanese Traditions, Places by tokyobling on August 25, 2014

Tokyo is full of history and interesting stories if you just know where to look and aren’t too distracted by the food, the fun and the shopping! I have passed these two statues at the famous Sensoji Temple in Japan’s number one tourist site, Asakusa, maybe over a thousand times but I only recently learned about the history of them.

In the first half of the 17th century when Edo was the trading and crafts center of Japan and the home of the ruling Shogun (Warlord) a struggling trader in rice took in a small boy from modern day Gunma prefecture and did his best to teach him about trade and commerce. Eventually the boy returned to his home town and started a very successful trading business. His old master though was not so lucky and died impoverished and destitute. The former apprentice, Takase Zembe, heard of the tragedy and ordered two huge statues of the bodhisattvas Kannon and Seishi. They were donated in 1678 to the memory of the rice merchant and his son. Both the statues miraculously survived the US fire bombings of 1945 and they are still in their original positions to the right of the second Nio gate.

But the story doesn’t end there, because almost 300 years later one of Zembe’s direct descendants, Takase Jiro who was the Japanese ambassador to Sri Lanka in 1996 developed a cultural exchange and partnership between the Sensoji Temple and the famous Isurumuniya Vihara temple in Anuradhapura, the capital of ancient Ceylon (Sri Lanka). As the Senso-ji’s pagoda was rebuilt in 1973, the temple in Sri Lanka dispatched its senior abbot to the dedication ceremony, bringing with him a granule of the physical remains of the Buddha, a massively important relic, to dedicate to the Japanese temple.

The granule remains in the pagoda to this day and I hope both it and the two statues representing the gratitude of a devoted apprentice to his former master will remain for many thousands of years to come.

I passed the statues a little while ago, and found them occupied by two birds who posed perfectly for the camera.

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4 Responses

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  1. Buri-chan said, on August 26, 2014 at 12:26 am

    Interesting! I had no idea about those stories either. All this time I had been passing a Buddhist relic and wasn’t any the wiser. I love the photo with the bird on the fingertips!

    Like

    • tokyobling said, on August 26, 2014 at 3:38 am

      Thank you! The birds were kind enough to pose for me. I should have returned the favor but I was all out of bed crumbs and feeding birds at the temple is illegal. (^-^:) Can you imagine the headline? “Obstinate Tokyo Blogger Thrown Out of Temple: Birds Outraged.”

      Like

  2. Timi said, on August 30, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    The enlightened birds of buddha? That would also make a good article X3

    Like


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