Tag: Buddhist shrine

Cats Are The Monks At This Japanese Temple

One of the highlights of my trip to Japan last summer was Gotokuji Temple, the famous “cat shrine” in Tokyo’s Setagaya suburb.

Gotokuji is home to thousands of statues of maneki-neko, or “beckoning cat,” an important and ubiquitous image in Japan: Statues of maneki-neko adorn shops and virtually every public place in Tokyo, but Gotokuji is where the legend of the beckoning cat was born. Visitors write prayers on the statues and ask for good luck for a variety of venture, from opening new businesses to getting married.

There is, however, only one current feline resident at Gotokuji, while Kyoto’s Nyan Nyan Ji — literally “meow meow shrine” — is populated exclusively by feline “monks,” who wear monkly garb and take their duties — especially napping, er, meditating — very seriously.

The most recognizable of them is Koyuki, the chief cat priestess at Nyan Nyan Ji.

Here are some photos, all courtesy of the temple’s Instagram, showing what life is like for Koyuki and her fellow priests:

Screenshot_2020-08-12 ねこ地蔵とおる ( nekojizo) is on Instagram(11)

Screenshot_2020-08-12 ねこ地蔵とおる ( nekojizo) is on Instagram(2)
“This is how it’s supposed to be, humans: You kneeling before us. Those ancient Egyptians had it right.”
Screenshot_2020-08-12 ねこ地蔵とおる ( nekojizo) is on Instagram(5)
“I can call upon powerful minions to smite you whenever I please.”

Screenshot_2020-08-12 ねこ地蔵とおる ( nekojizo) is on Instagram(10)

Screenshot_2020-08-12 ねこ地蔵とおる ( nekojizo) is on Instagram(9)
“Tiny humans are permitted to touch my holy personage.”
Screenshot_2020-08-12 ねこ地蔵とおる ( nekojizo) is on Instagram(4)
“And here is the nursery, where it’s currently reading time for our kittens…”
Screenshot_2020-08-12 ねこ地蔵とおる ( nekojizo) is on Instagram(3)
“Walk with me on the path to deliciousness…”
Screenshot_2020-08-12 ねこ地蔵とおる ( nekojizo) is on Instagram(8)
“Read the sign! We’re not open until I says so. Now if you please, I have napping to do.”

Screenshot_2020-08-12 ねこ地蔵とおる ( nekojizo) is on Instagram(7)
Screenshot_2020-08-12 ねこ地蔵とおる ( nekojizo) is on Instagram(13)
Screenshot_2020-08-12 ねこ地蔵とおる ( nekojizo) is on Instagram(12)
Screenshot_2020-08-12 ねこ地蔵とおる ( nekojizo) is on Instagram(4)

 

Asakusa: The Market Temple

And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” – John 2:13-16

Growing up Catholic, I heard the story of Jesus furiously expelling the money-changers and merchants from the temple at least a few times a year in church gospels.

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“Christ casts out the money-changers” by Danish painter Carl Heinrich Bloch.

The message was clear: Houses of worship are supposedly to be solemn and hushed places where people can speak to God in peace.

Sensō-ji temple is quite the opposite.

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Sellers hawk overpriced gifts for tourists en route to Sensō-ji temple.

Sensō-ji is not only Japan’s oldest temple, it’s one of the most-visited spiritual sites in the world, with an estimated 30 million annual visitors.

It’s also one of Tokyo’s most-accessible shrines, just a short walk from a subway stop in Asakusa. All that foot traffic makes it irresistible for local merchants, who sell everything from traditional lanterns to t-shirts, stuffed animals, shoes, bags and hats.

On the day I visited a steady rain hadn’t put a dent in the mixed crowd of locals and tourists.

A giant lantern hangs beneath the temple gate, which was rebuilt in 1960 after a fire destroyed its predecessor. While most of the structures at Sensō-ji are reproductions, the area has been a religious site for more than 1,000 years.

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The temple grounds are a popular spot for tourists and locals alike.

 

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A shopping mall featuring eateries, gift shops and a sword smith.

Shiba: Zōjō-ji Temple and the Last Shoguns

Near the heart of the city, under the shadow of Tokyo Tower, is Zōjō-ji Temple.

The shrine is the most important location in a 1,000-year-old sect of Buddhism as well as the burial grounds of the last shoguns. But what’s most striking about the complex is how it contrasts the old and the new — the sangedatsumon (“gate”) to Zōjō-ji, pictured above, is the oldest surviving wooden structure in Tokyo, leading to an island of tranquility amid skyscrapers, subway lines, neon signs and thousands of shops.

Zōjō-ji Temple: Detail of temple gate
The gate leading to Zōjō-ji Temple was built in 1622, making it the oldest wooden building in Tokyo proper.
Zōjō-ji Temple
Tokyo Tower looms over Zōjō-ji Temple itself, the main structure on the shrine grounds.
Zōjō-ji Temple close-up
The open door on the right side beneath the portico leads to the sanctuary, called the daiden (“great hall”) in Japanese.
Zōjō-ji Temple: Detail
A view from the portico shows an adjacent temple structure as well as skyscrapers in the background.
Zōjō-ji Temple and Tokyo Tower
Zōjō-ji Temple itself, left, flanks a smaller shrine structure with Tokyo Tower in the background.
Zōjō-ji Temple and pagoda
A pagoda with the portico of Zōjō-ji Temple in the foreground.
Zōjō-ji Temple and pagoda
A close-up of the detail and symmetry of the pagoda.
Zōjō-ji Temple: Shōgun Mausoleum
The entrance to the Shōgun mausoleum and graveyard. Six members of the Takegawa Shōgunate, the last feudal rulers in the country’s history, are buried here.
Zōjō-ji Temple
Statues of Jizō Bosatsu, a Buddhist figure designated as the guardian of children, line a quiet path behind the temple.
Temple sanctuary
Gilded ornaments surround a central statue in the daiden. Visitors can light incense and sit in quiet contemplation in the great hall.
Crow near Jizō Bosatsu statues
A crow sits on a stone wall separating the Shōgun burial ground from the path lined with Jizō Bosatsu statues.