Yushima Seido is possibly the most simultaneously most impressive and least talked about temple in Tokyo. Not only is it one of very few confucian temples in the city, it is also wonderfully un-photogenic. I do not think I am exaggerating when I say that there is no other historic building in Tokyo that is so impossible to photograph well, with its pitch black walls and wide overhanging roof. If you really need a challenge as a photographer there is no better place in Tokyo!
Originally founded in Ueno in 1630, the temple was moved here in 1690 it was the main school/training center for government officials until it was closed in 1871 as the functions were taken over by many other schools, universities and government agencies. Today the grounds occupied by the temple itself is much smaller than they were originally. The very similarly named Yushima Tenjin nearby is also related to this temple and still to this day these two places are were people go for pray for success in their studies, exams or academic careers.
On the temple grounds you will also find the 1975 statue of Confucius which is claimed to be the biggest of its kind in the world.
The Yushima Seido is easily reached from the Ochanomizu stations and lies just a stones throw from the far more famous Kanda Myojin.
If you are in Tokyo this weekend and not interested in the massive Kawagoe festival taking place in Saitama Prefecture just north of Tokyo I recommend visiting the far smaller but almost as crowded Oeshiki ceremony at Kishibojin in Zoshigaya, a 10 minute walk south of Ikebukuro station. Kishibojin temple is one of those religious mysteries of which there are so many in Japan. Even the name is unclear as it changes from different maps and signs, and it is a hybrid Shrine/Temple celebrating Oeshiki which is a distinctly buddhist ceremony a week later than all the other Oeshiki ceremonies, it is officially called a shrine but it has no torii gate but a small Inarijinja. I have visited dozens of times but I still haven’t unravelled this one. More studies needed!
Yesterday when I took these photos was the first evening of the three night event. Tonight and tomorrow will be much bigger with thousands of people taking part and as many onlookers crowding the narrow streets leading up to Kishibojin temple. Like at the Oeshiki in the main Nichiren temple in Ikegami last week, there are lots of matoi dancers as well as the larger mando. It is considered good luck to touch one of the white paper flowers and you can even buy them to decorate your home altar at a small stand inside the temple, but unlike the main ceremony in Ikegami touching them is not encouraged and I have never seen anyone doing it, so it is probably better to ask before reaching out and getting some of that good luck!
Photographing this even it extremely difficult, fast moving, dark and quite introverted this is not a photogenic festival despite all the fantastic things going on! Also, if you are into amezaiku the man at Zoshigaya this weekend is really talented. Also, while visiting the festival you can check out what is probably the oldest kiosk in continuous operation in the world, having started in 1781!
This year saw the 733rd Oeshiki ceremony at Tokyo’s Ikegami Honmonji Temple in the southern Ota Ward. Among the performers were the usual matoi dancers, laymen followers of the Nichiren temples who take part in the festivities by twirling their matoi around their bodies. These matoi are about 10kg heavy but the guys make it seem very easy. I especially liked these two men who did pretty fantastic two person set where they mirrored each other’s movements to great effect. The crowd was mighty pleased! Even as I was taking these I was thinking how much one of them reminded me of Johnny Depp, same stern features, the scraggly beard and the dark eyes! Very striking! I for one would be happy to see matoi dancing as an olympic sport!
As usual, please click the images for full picture quality!
This weekend, temples all over Japan belonging to one of the biggest Japanese buddhist sects, will be holding the grand Oeshiki, a festival to celebrate the passing of the saint Nichiren who died on October 13th, 1282. The main temple of the Nichiren sect and the biggest of the Oeshiki ceremonies is at the temple in Ikegami, in Tokyo’s southern Ota Ward. The ceremonies start today but the main event with big parade, the dancing with the matoi and the thousands of revelers is on the 12th and finishing with more ceremonies on the 13th.
If you are in Tokyo this weekend I recommend heading down to the Honmonji temple to watch the festivities! You can find more information on the event homepage here, although it is all in Japanese is has all the times, routes and maps of the ceremonies.
I took these photos right at the end of last year’s ceremony, the parishioners still had a lot of energy even though they had been dancing and playing for hours!