Some more photos of the nearly 400 years old Gokokuji temple in Tokyo’s culture rich Bunkyo ward. I took these a few weeks ago and the trees have yet to shoot any leaves but it was a brilliant day and I seldom pass the area so I took my chance. The tample is located on a simply huge piece of land for being central Tokyo and if you take of your shoes you are free to enjoy the stillness, the sounds and the smells of the main temple building.
Few temples in the Japanese capital manage what the grand Gokokuji in Bunkyo ward manages – it gives its name to a subway station: The Gokokuji Station on the Yurakucho line. Exiting from the station the temple is right in front of you and it is hard to miss either of the grand gates leading up to the main temple building. As usual with these huge temple compounds, a big part has been given over to more modern endeavors, offices and car parks, but the upper part remains impressive. The temple itself was founded in 1681 by the fifth shogun and is one of the few temple buildings in the capital that survived all earthquakes and bombing raids unscathed. The temple compound might not look like much in the winter, but come summer the whole compound looks much better with trees full of leaves and life. More images to come, and more details on what is found here.
The great Buddhists temple of Hasedera in the city of Kamakura to the south west of Tokyo has one of the greatest prayer wheels (マニ車 in Japanese) that I have ever seen in Japan. Housed in its own protective building, the house is centered on a giant prayer wheel made in wood joinery itself housing tens of thousands of handwritten pray slips, visible when the little door in the walls and the wheel itself are open. On the 18th of every month the wheel may be turned by members of the public, but on other days ordinary people can still use the prayer wheels attached to the walls. Prayer wheels are common in Tibetan Buddhism where the act of spinning a wheel containing a prayer is considered having the same effect as saying the prayer itself. Naturally one spin on this wheel is worth several weeks of actual praying!
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”.