Tokyobling's Blog

The Giant Tengu Head of Takao Station

Posted in Places by tokyobling on February 9, 2015

If you ever find yourself passing through or actually stopping at JR Takao station in Tokyo’s extreme western areas you might want to take a few minutes to say hello to the giant Tengu head statue (Tenguzo) that adorns platform 3 and 4! At 1.2m height this long nosed spirit of the mountain weighs in with a respectable 18 tons. and greets every train coming in from Tokyo. Some people even call it a dating spot!

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Autumn Leaves at Takaosan

Posted in Nature, Places by tokyobling on November 26, 2014

It is autumn leave season and most people make a point of leaving the house and getting at least a little bit of fresh mountain air. One of the most popular destinations for Tokyo residents is the Takaosan mountain in the Western Tokyo city of Hachioji. I took these photos at the temple at the summit of the mountain when I visited last year. I have yet to make a visit this year.

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Takaosan Kitouden – Drive in Temple

Posted in Japanese Traditions, Places by tokyobling on April 2, 2014

At the holy Takaosan mountain in Tokyo’s Hachioji city you’ll find the Kitouden (高尾山自動車祈祷殿), a sub temple to the famous Yakuoin which is devoted solely to traffic safety, and naturally it is a drive in temple. Well, not as much drive in as drive up to, but still. The temple is open to a large parking space where observant car owners, bikers and cyclists pull up to receive their yearly blessing. In the ceremony a monk will read prayers over the vehicles and the visitors and at the end of it you get a sticker to put on your car.

Quite correctly, buddhist monks are of the opinion that there is no such thing as an “accident” in traffic and that they can be avoided by having the correct attitude, the right state of mind and a heightened awareness of everything from your own stress as a driver to the mood of the drivers around you. It is the monks hope that the prayers will help you keep concentrated on traffic safety and thus avoid injury to yourself or others. Being calm and aware are two very buddhists attitudes so they fit right in with traffic safety!

The temple building of the Kitouden itself is not very interesting but the statues of the ferocious tengu facing the cars are fantastic, and very photogenic. My favorite is the seated tengu, taking the aspect of Buddha himself.

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Mount Takao Fire Walking Festival

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on March 12, 2014

The third and final part of the grand Hiwatari Matsuri, or fire walking festival, at Tokyo’s holy Mount Takao last weekend. After having spent quite some time trying to contain the fire and dousing it with clear water and burning the votive sticks, the shugenja would line up for the final fire walking test. Before that two of them would take part in a ritual cleanings ceremony involving showering themself with near boiling water which they beat out of cauldron with a bundle of tree branches. After that the shugenja and lay followers of the shugendo sect would start the fire walking, first stepping on a mound of pure white salt which has a further purification symbolism.

There were several shugenja performing the ceremony and when they were done they took up positions around the dojo to chant prayers while the ordinary people started the fire walking. In the last photo you can see the what it all looked like after several hours into the ceremony. The line snaking around the dojo continued up onto the hill where I took the photo, went around the hill and down onto the other side. By the time normal people get to do the fire walking any remaining embers would have died out and there should be barely any heat left at all. The significance in the ceremony is not the physical challenge though, it is the ritual purification that is the important part. I didn’t stay to see all the ordinary folks performing the ceremony but the shugenja must have spent many hours of continuos chanting and drumming!

Standing so close to many shugenja (a rare treat!) gave me a grand opportunity to take plenty of photos of their gear close up. I have included some of the photos in this post.

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