Day 4 – The Tokyo 33 Temple Kannon Pilgrimage

Day 4 – The Tokyo 33 Temple Kannon Pilgrimage

Today was our last day in Tokyo.
We did not have enough time to visit all of the 34 temples on this mini pilgrimage in the four days that we were in Tokyo. But luckily we made plans for one more day in Tokyo before our return flight home at the end of our journey, so we will easily be able to visit the four temples we have left.

In great contrast to yesterday’s rainy day, today the sky was mostly clear and blue, so I decided that we should visit the temples that are located farther from the center of the city.

The suburbs were quiet and clean, and the walk took us through an area with many big temples.

In Toen-ji (Temple #19) a friendly woman stamped our book and scroll and asked us when we had come to Japan.
We made sure to ask if we could go into the Kannon-Dō hall to chant and pray, and she was a bit surprised by our request.
Of course we could go in, otherwise why would people come to the temple, she said with a smile.

The main Kannon image in this temple is held in a beautifully ornate cabinet and is only shown once every twelve years.
This is a common practice in some temples.
Sometimes they have a replica of the hidden image standing in front of the cabinet, and at other times they put just a round mirror in front of the cabinet, to remind you that you have the Buddha nature inside you, that you ARE one with the Buddha.

A family of visitors, all dressed in black, came in to pay their respects to the spirits of their dead relatives, and place flowers and light incense in front of the ashes.

When we got ready to go,they all bowed repeatedly and thanked us for chanting the Buddha’s Lotus Heart sutra so well.

In Temple #17, Hofuku-ji, we saw more people dressed in formal black clothing, who had come to pay respect to their dead loved ones.
We got a stamp while waiting in the entrance, and then chanted in front of the closed hall.
The woman who stamped our book and scroll, sat on her knees and bowed to us placing her forehead all the way to the carpet, until we left.
This temple was burnt down in the year 2009, but the Kannon statue was saved and a new hall was built to house it.

From there we returned to the center of the city.
We had planned to visit one more temple and have a late lunch, but it was so cold that we took a long break in a cafe.

Shinjo-in, Temple #18, was first established in the year 1598, but was moved to this location in the 1970’s.
The temple does not look like much from the outside, but it is run by a super friendly and sweet family who have kind eyes.
My heart was warmed by talking to them and even the grandmother came out to greet us.

The Kannon hall has an eleven-headed Kannon, and it is located on the rooftop, inside a small hall.
We sat on the tatami mats and chanted, while the family downstairs was admiring our scroll.

At the entrance, they had put a coronavirus face-mask on the temple founder’s statue, perhaps trying to bring some perspective to the panic that currently grips the world.

From there we went to have a late lunch in the French-owned Citron veg cafe.
They offer a set menu for lunch that is freshly made daily, and the French owner was so happy to see us.

I chose to walk to the next temple via the Meiji Jingu gardens.
There is a wide avenue in the Meiji-era park that is lined with old ginkgo trees.
In autumn, the trees look glorious as their leaves turn yellow.
Now the trees have no leaves, but they still looked glorious to me.

The last temple we visited today was temple #33, Ryusen-ji.
It is a big and beautiful temple, and we were delighted to see that it was so well attended.
Dozens of people climbed up the stairs to the main hall, and lit incense and said prayers.

The woman at the office told us to come back again at the end of our pilgrimage, after we have completed visiting all the temples on the pilgrimage, so she can add another stamp to our scroll.

The name of the surrounding district of “Meguro” is derived from Ryūsen-ji’s black-eyed statue of Meguro Fudō (Black-eyed Fudo-Myoo).

A statue of the protective Fudō-myōō stands in front of a small pond.
It is said that when looking to establish the exact location of the temple, a monk threw a vajra and it landed here, and mineral waters sprang up.

A friendly man showed us a small cave with a seated healing Buddha, said to heal knee problems for those who rub his bronze knees.

Right beside Ryusen-ji temple, there is a temple that houses amazing statues of the 500 Arhats (Rakans).

Ten’on-zan Gohyaku Rakan-ji temple was established in 1695.
Once the temple was prosperous, and had many visitors.
Sho’un Genkei carved all these amazing wooden statues of the Rakan and the Buddha, between the years 1691 – 1710.
He worked alone.

Here is how the temple described the Arhats or Rakan:
“The Rakan are the disciples of Buddha who were real people who actually existed.
They listened to Buddha and did the ascetic practices in accordance with his instruction.
In doing so, the Rakan became free from their worldly desires and finally became enlightened saints.

The Rakan passed on the teachings of Buddha from generation to generation.
Without the Rakans we would never have been able to learn the teachings of Buddha.

The Rakans’ messages are displayed in front of each statue. These messages are the words of wisdom of the Buddha and are gifts from the Rakans.

We would be pleased if these words gave you insight and resonated with you.
The “Rakan-san” statues are depicted as laughing, shouting, crying and meditating.
Among the various figures and the faces of the Rakan-san, you will find one that looks like you or like your relatives.
The Rakan-san are still watching over us and guiding us.”

These statues are designated as “Important Cultural Properties of Tokyo.”

After the Meiji Restoration, the temple went into decline.
The statues were kept outdoors in a cave, and many deteriorated beyond repair.

As we walked through the halls and admired the Arhats, I examined each Rakan.
I have been painting them for over two years now, and I feel like I have a close and intimate relationship with them.

We said a prayer asking the masters to help heal the earth of this recent madness.
The Rakans seemed to answer me: The world you seem to live in worships wrong ideas and empty idols.
It is an upside down world.
It was never a sane world, but now the madness is more visible.

It was already late when we finished visiting Rakan-ji temple.
The monks closed the doors behind us.
We had planned to return to our hotel early to do our laundry and pack our bags, but it was so cold, that we decided to skip the laundry and go and have dinner instead.
We would do the laundry tomorrow.

We ate dinner in a tiny but very good Italian restaurant located across from our hotel.
Their food was delicious, and we spent the rest of the evening deciding what we can leave behind, before we start walking.

With light,

Daily stats:
Steps walked – 26,529
20 km. walked
Active walking time – 5 hours
Total walking time today – 8.5 hours

Temples visited:

Temple #17

Temple #18

Temple #19

Temple #22

Temple #23

Temple #24

Temple #33
Ryūsenji Temple

Plus The temple of the 500 Arhats (Rakans):
Gohyaku Rakan-ji Temple 五百羅漢寺(羅漢寺)

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