Fearsome Nio at Entsuu-ji Temple

Entsuu-ji is a kind of a cheesy-looking Zen Temple near Minami-senju Station in Tokyo, but it has some really cool Buddhist sculptures.

These are kongo rikishi, the “power lords of the diamond realm,” and they stand guard at many Buddhist temples in Japan. Bare-chested, sneering deities, the kongo rikishi are not your average Buddhas. Unlike the serene Kannon, Amida and Jizo statues, their ferocious faces and body-builder physiques are meant to frighten off evil spirits from the temple grounds, and in fact, they’re not true Buddhas at all, but rather protectors of the Buddha.

Kongo Rikishi also represent the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.

Look closely at their faces and you’ll notice that one, the Missha Kongo (the secret-knowing Kongo) always has his mouth closed, and one, the Mishabe Kongo, (the secret-speaking Kongo) always has his mouth open.

Entsu-ji probably isn’t worth a special trip, but you might want to combine it with a visit to the Yoshiwara former red-light district or the Kotsukappara Execution Grounds.

Here is the temple’s homepage (in Japanese only) http://www6.plala.or.jp/entsuji/

Getting there: From Minami-senju Station, go out of the West Exit, turn left, and walk to the stop lights. Turn right and walk north to the next set of lights. Turn left, and walk to the second set of lights, which is a big road called Nikko Kaido or Route 4. Cross the street, and turn left. Entsu-ji will be on your right. You can also take Exit 3 from Minowa Subway Station, turn right, and north on Nikko Kaido/Route 4. Coming from Minowa, Entsu-ji will be on your left.Address: Tokyo, Arakawa-ku, Minami-senju 1-59-11 (Japanese: 東京都 荒川区南千住1-59-11)

TEl. 03-3891-1368

These are Kongo Rikishi (aka Nio),Kongo rikishi, the “power lords of the diamond realm,” stand guard at many Buddhist temples in Japan. Bare-chested, sneering deities, the kongo rikishi are not your average Buddhas. Unlike the serene Kannon, Amida and Jizo statues, their ferocious faces and body-builder physiques are meant to frighten off evil spirits from the temple grounds, and in fact, they’re not true Buddhas at all, but rather protectors of the Buddha.

Kongo Rikishi also represent the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. Look closely at their faces and you’ll notice that the one on the left, the Missha Kongo (the secret-knowing Kongo) always has his mouth closed, and the one on the right, the Mishabe Kongo (the secret-speaking Kongo) always has his mouth open.

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Hina Doll at the Awashima Shrine in Wakayama

Hina doll at Awashima Jinja in Wakayama prefecture. Many Japanese people believe that dolls have souls, so instead of throwing them in the garbage, they take them to a shrine where they are blessed and ritually burned or thrown into the sea.

Other posts with pictures of Awashima Jinja:

https://qjphotos.wordpress.com/?s=awashima

Yoyogi Bubbleman

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Last Sunday I came across this bubble blowing club in Yoyogi Park.

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The Temple of the Flying Buddha

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Shobo-in temple near Asakusa is dedicated to the Buddhist deity Fudo Myo, and is popularly known as Tobi Fudo. Tobi Fudo means “the flying Fudo Myo.” The temple got its nickname in the 1500s when its founder took an image of Fudo Myo to Mt. Omine, some 300 miles away. The story goes that the image flew back to Tokyo one night, to answer the prayers of devotees there.
Today, a lot of young women who are trying to become flight attendants or people who are afraid of flying go there to pray. The wooden board in the photo is an ema, or votive plaque which people use to write their wish on.

For more information about Shobo-in and the Tobi Fudo, visit: http://www.tctv.ne.jp/tobifudo/engi/eengi.html

Birdman

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Bird man street performer

A Japanese Garden Ready for Winter

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The Horikiri Shobuen is a small but very nice iris garden near my apartment in Katsushika Ward. It gets jam-packed in early June when the irises are in bloom, but is quite beautiful and nearly empty the rest of the year.
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When I visited last Sunday, all the plants were covered in straw, ready for the winter. The idea is that the straw will attract bugs because it’s warmer, keeping them away from the plant itself. I’m not sure if it’s any more true than the popular pet-bottle theory of keeping cats away from your house or not, but it’s very attractive.

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This straw-rope carousel is called a yukitsuri. It’s supposed to be to support the branches of the tree when they are covered in snow, but seeing as Tokyo only gets a light sprinkling of white stuff three or four times a year, I have an idea that they’re more ornamental now. There’s a good explanation of Yukitsuri at: http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/ek20070220wh.html

The Horikiri Shobuen is near Horikirishobuen Station on the Keisei Railways main line. It’s a nice place to visit if you’re in the area, but probably not worth a long trip.

Bonsai-mura

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If you were opening up a shop in North America, you would probably check to make sure that there wasn’t too much competition nearby. It always seemed like common sense to me when I was living in Canada, but since I’ve been living in Japan, I’ve come to question the assumption.
There are a large number of districts in Tokyo where similar businesses are all grouped together. Ochanomizu has a couple dozen music shops, Kanda has a street of used book stores, Asakusabashi has bead shops, Akihabara has electronics, and on and on. It seems that the shops have a synergy, attracting more customers because people know that they can get a good price and selection if they go to the area, increasing patronage to all the shops.
One of the oddest shopping districts I’ve come across is Bonsai Mura in Saitama City. There are about 10 nurseries here, and people come from all over Japan to visit them. Apparently a number of Tokyo bonsai masters decided to move out there after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, and set up their own little community with strict rules and regulations about buildings, fences, and behavior, one of which is that they have to open their gardens to the public.
It’s quite fascinating to wander around, and the staff seems to enjoy talking about the trees. By the way, photography is not permitted, and I was lucky that the old lady who worked there offered to turn her back while I took my picture.
There’s quite a good website with history of the area and information about visiting at: http://members.iinet.net.au/~jold/bonsai-in-asia/japanomiya.html

The official site (http://www.seikouen.cc/) is almost all in Japanese, except for this profile of the gardeners: http://www.seikouen.cc/bonsai1/cafe/cafe1.html

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