When I visited Hasedera temple in Kamakura city the main hall was undergoing renovation so I couldn’t get any good photos of it. Instead I spent the time in the vast temple gardens, full of statues, little shrines, jizo, trees, flowers and plants of all kinds. The temple is famous for the hundreds of peonies grown there, not in bloom when I was visiting though, but the kawazusakura, the plum trees and many others were.
The jizo statues of which you see so many in Japan are meant to placate the soul of children lost to miscarriage, stillbirth or abortion. The smaller ones are placed here by the parents, and they remain for a year before being removed, symbolizing the rebirth of the soul.
An interesting detail is the Manjiike (卍池), a swastika cross shaped pond. In buddhism the symbol represents eternity, and in Japan it has the added meaning of 10 000, which symbolizes “everything, the universe, the alpha and the omega”.
Most likely founded in 736 A.D., the vast Hasedera Temple is today one of the main tourist attractions of Kamakura City to the south-west of Tokyo. Hasedera is one of the most important temples in a city that is famous for them. The temples main draw, apart from its scenic location is it’s masssive over nine meters tall wooden eleven-headed kannon statue. Due to a camera ban inside the temple itself I could not take any photos of it though. From the top of the temple grounds you get a pretty good view of the city and the beach.
According to the legend, a monk named Tokudo carved two statues out of a giant camphor tree in 721 A.D. One was enshrined in Nara and the other statue was set adrift in the ocean to find its own way to its home. Apparently it washed up in Kamakura and was carried up to the location of today’s Hasedera.
The temple is also famous for its many statues, jizo and impressive gardens. More photos to come!
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!