The Todai-ji Temple Omizutori or Water Drawing Ceremony is one of the rituals that takes place during Shuuni-e religious services at Nigatsu-do, located inside the Todai-ji Temple complex. Because it is regarded as the most significant, the Omizutori ceremony has become almost synonymous with the Shuuni-e services. These are held for two weeks, beginning with the first day of March.
Shuuni-e is formally called “Juuichimen-keka-hou” (which, translated literally, means eleven headed repentance). It is a memorial service in which priests at the Todai-ji temple forgive people’s sins and pray to Juichimen Kannon, the eleven-headed goddess and principal image of Budda at Nigatsu-do for the nation’s peace and prosperity.
Shuuni-e is said to have been started by a Priest named Jichu in Februrary of 752. This is even prior to Daibutsu Kaigen, another well known ceremony at the Todaiji-Temple that was first held in April of the same year. Since then, it has been continued for more than 1,200 years without any interruption.
In the Omizutori ceremony, priests scoop up sacred water from the Wakasai Well at midnight on March 12th and present it to the Kannon. The other famous ceremony is Otaimatsu in which priests carry burning torches and run through the balcony of Nigatsu-do.
Omizutoi is also a ceremony to bring Spring to the people of Nara. By the time the ceremony is finished, the cherry trees have begun to blossom and Spring has arrived.
Haijima Daishi is a common name for a Tendai sect temple in Haijima-cho, Akishima City, Tokyo. It is formally named Hongakuji Temple. The main object of worship is Jie Daishi Ryogen, or Gansan Daishi, who was the 18th Tendai Zasu (the leader of the sect). The temple was one of the 8 temples to worship Dainichi Nyorai, which were dedicated in 1578 by Ishikawa Tosanokami in appreciation for his daughter, Onei, having recovered from an eye disease. The temple is known for getting rid of bad luck.
The Dharma Market is held at this temple on January 2nd and 3rd every year because January 3rd is the memorial day of Jie Daishi. The dharma market is called “Tama Daruma” and about 600 dharma doll vendors set up the stalls along the front approach. As a Japanese proverb goes “Nanakorobi, Yaoki” meaning “To fall seven times, to rise eight times,” a dharma doll is a lucky often purchased on New Year’s Day. During the market days, the temple is thronged with visitors who come for the year’s first worship at the temple and for buying dharma dolls.
This character is a so-called compound ideograph. What regards the upper part 宀 (ukanmuri: roof classifier) which can be seen also in a lot of other characters, it does not simply show a roof, but is the roof of a mausoleum. This character points at the basis of Asian religious culture, the custom of memorial service for the ancestors and ancestor worship. One key to the long period of peace that can be seen in Asian history thus is included in this Kanji. By thinking about the favors received from the ancestors, it is possible to endure the hardships of human life and one becomes wide-hearted and more broad-minded. When recalling one’s ancestors with their different ways of thinking and life philosophy, one becomes more tolerant regarding people leading diametric opposite lives and holding completely different opinions in the present, and the essence of human life shows.
The lower part is a priestess or shrine maiden engaged in a ritual in the mausoleum. Shintō, the indigenous religion of Japan also often has rituals with shrine maidens inspired when in religious frenzy. In such a state, the priestess gets relaxed and conveys a divine message. The appearance of the priestess or shrine maiden at this time stresses her eyes with what in the character form of the Common Use Kanji looks like a grass-classifier but actually is a curse decoration. Both, the minds and hearts of the family taking part in the ritual as well as the relaxed conduct of the priestess or shrine maiden contribute to the meaning of the character.
Shitennou-ji Temple, located in Tennouji-ku, Osaka City, Osaka, is the head temple of Wa Shuu or Japanese Buddhist sect. The principal image of Buddha is Guse Kanzeon Bosatsu. The temple is a part of Kansai Kannon Pilgrimage, the 25th temple of Settsukoku Pilgrimage and the first temple of Shoutoku Taishi Reiseki Temples.
Shitennou-ji is an ancient temple built by Shoutoku Taishi on the first year of Emperoro Suiko era (593).
Doya-doya Festival is said to date back to 827 when Shushoue, a New Year’s memorial service, first took place, and is counted as one of the Big Three Strange Festivals in Japan.
Shushoue, which starts on New Year’s Day, is dedicated to good luck for the year and to pray for world peace and rich harvests. Doya-doya Festival takes place on January 14th, the final day of Shushoue.
The festival is a majestic soul-stirring event in which young men who are divided into white and red groups and wearing only headbands and clad in loincloth strive to grab an amulet called gohei. The name, Doya-doya, came from a Japanese expression of a big crowd gathering noisily.
Even now Shitennou-ji Doya-doya is still a very well attended thriving traditional religious festival.
Eifukuji Temple is known as the site of the kofun (tomb) of Prince Shotoku. It is one of the New Saigoku Pilgrimage of 33 Temples, which was newly selected based on Prince Shotoku’s idea of “harmony” as a priority over all other virtues. In 724, after the death of the prince, the emperor Shomu ordered to build a temple to repose the soul of Prince Shotoku. The temple was burned down by the attack of Nobunaga Oda during the Warring States period, but it was rebuilt by Hideyoshi Toyotomi. If you go up the stone steps, you will see the South Gate. Walk through the gate, and then you will see the houtou (a treasure pagoda), the main hall, and the Shoryo-den (a memorial hall of Prince Shotoku) on your left. In the back of the precinct is the Prince Shotoku’s tomb. Shoryo-den is a designated Important Cultural Property. The principal image worshipped inside is said to be Prince Shotoku’s life-size statue when he was 16. It is said to have been placed in the ancient Imperial Palace in Kyoto but donated to this temple by the emperor Gotoba in 1187. Around the temple there are a lot of places associated with Prince Shotoku. You will be impressed by the length of the history all through which people have paid respect for the Prince.
Kozuke Sanpi is the generic name of the three stone monuments erected in the areas around Takasaki City in the ancient times. Yamanoue-hi and Kanaizawa-no-hi are in Yamana-machi in Takasaki City and Tago-no-hi is in Yoshii-machi in Tano-gun. They are nationally designated as Special Historic Sites.
Yamanoue-hi Monument is considered to have been erected in 681 and to be the epitaph of Yamanoue Kofun located next to the monument. It is Japan’s oldest epitaph.
Kanaizawa-no-hi Monument was erected in 726. It is written in the clerical script and reads that some descendants of the management officer of the Imperial agricultural land in Takada in Kozuke province (present-day Gunma Prefecture) formed a Buddhist group and were praying to Buddha for their parents’ safty and ancestors’ souls.
Tago-no-hi Monument erected in 711 is considered to be one of Japan’s Three Old Monuments. It is thought to be the memorial stone that celebrated the establishment of Tago County, but there are several other opinions about its interpretation. Calling it “Hitsuji-sama,” local people had worshipped it as the tomb of Hitsiji Tayu, a legendary hero of the county.
Kozuke Sanpi monuments are precious historic sites, by which the political situations of the time can be inferred.
Kosenji Temple in Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture, is an historic temple pertaining to the Taira clan. In 1321, after the fall of the Taira clan, a descendant of Taira no Shigemori, known as Komatsu Naidaijin (Inner Minister), disguised himself as a mountain practitioner and came to this village, escaping from his enemies. He founded a temple named Komatsu-dera Temple, where he placed the statue of Amida Nyorai, which was his family’s guardian Buddha, and held memorial services for his deceased ancestors. Later, the temple was changed its name to Kosenji Temple.
The principal object of worship, the statue of Amida Nyorai, was presented to Shigemori by the temple in Auyung in present Ningbo City in China, and treasured as the guardian of the family. After it was enshrined at this temple, it has been named Komatsu Nyorai after Shigemori, and worshipped by local people.
The temple possesses a lot of cultural properties such as the statue of Idatenjin, the Jizo statue carved by Kaikei and the 12 ancestral tablets including the one for Shigemori, which make us think of the rise and fall of the Taira clan, who once ruled the country.
Hozoji in Okazaki City, Aichi Prefecture, is a temple of the Seizan-Fukakusa school of the Jodo sect. The principal object of worship is Amida Nyorai. It is the 12th temple of the Mikawa Pilgrimage to the 33 Holy Place of Kannon and the 35th temple of the Mikawa Shin-Shikoku Holy Places.
It was founded by Priest Gyoki in 701 as Nisonzan Shusshoji Temple, a temple of the Hoso sect of Buddhism. The temple was converted to a Jodo sect temple by the priest Kyoku Ryugei in 1385 and renamed Hozoji.
It is said that Tokugawa Ieyasu trained himself at this temple when young. His personal mementoes, the well from which he drew water for calligraphy and the grave of his eldest daughter Kame-hime remain at the temple.
There is a grave of Kondo Isami, the commander of the Shinsengumi, in the precinct. In 1868, Kondo Isami was executed and his head was on public display at the Sanjo Ohashi Bridge in Kyoto. A unit member of the Shinsengumi, Saito Hajime, seized it and asked the priest Sonku Giten to hold a memorial service for him. When Giten moved to Okazaki, he brought the head with him and buried it at this temple.