こんばんは！ Last Friday I met up with my friend Saki after school to go take photographs at Zenchoji Temple. Paul and I have known Saki for almost as long as we’ve lived in Japan – she is an amazing artist, and for a while now she’s been photographing around Tatebayashi, so I couldn’t pass up the chance to go exploring with her!
First, we had to bike around the lake to get to the temple. The hydrangeas are gorgeous and blooming full force this time of year!
We arrived at the peaceful entrance to Zenchoji Temple off the lake. The original temple was built in 1523 by the owner of Tatebayashi Castle; however, in 1825 much of the temple was lost in a fire, including the wooden Buddha housed inside.
Inside the temple grounds were many graveyard plots for families where people leave incense to burn and little gifts; we saw that someone had left a pack of cigarettes and a lighter at one grave!
It is such a peaceful and tranquil place! I noticed lots of cherry blossom trees, azalea bushes, and wisteria while we were there. I’ll have to come back in the spring to see this place in bloom!
Afterwards, we biked a little farther down to Obiki Inari Shrine, one I’ve posted about often. It was extra interesting this time, though – we noticed a strange tall square structure with bamboo tied to it in front of the main building. While we were trying to figure out what it was, an old man came out of the residential house on the grounds (every shrine has a family that tends to it). Saki recognised the man at once – he was one of her middle school teachers!
He led us through a ritual – we walked through the square and circled around the left side, then the right side, then the left side again, bowing each time before stepping through. He chanted the whole way through, and when we finished, he announced that we were cleansed! Then he took us up the steps to pray.
Foxes are the messengers of the Japanese kami of luck and prosperity, Inari. Since this is an inari shrine, there are foxes everywhere. In the back are rows and rows of crooked, worn hokora, spirit-houses.
And of course, you can’t pass by this shrine without taking a picture of the row of torii gates!
Thank you Saki for taking me on this adventure! It was a wonderful experience to see these places with someone who is not just Japanese, but has a deep personal interest and connection with Japan’s shrines and temples. I can’t wait til we go out again!
Til next time! またね！