Wishing for Big Breasts

Japan’s Jodo-shu (Pure Land Sect) operates a breast shrine in Aichi Prefecture. It’s formally known as Ryuuon-ji, but most people refer to it as Mama Kannon or Mamachichi Kannon, and was founded way back in 1492. It’s dedicated to Kannon, the Buddha of Mercy, and according to local legend, it was founded by a hunter. He was so skillful that he could hit 100 bullseyes with 100 shots. One day while hunting deer on Komaki-yami, he came across a herd of deer which all lined up in a row for him to shoot. When he made his shot, the deer began to glow and turned into seven gems, and a statue of the Senju-kannon appeared from the center of them. The hunter threw away his bow, broke all his arrows, and bowed down before the statue. Coming down from the mountain, he told the local villagers the story, and together they built a hut to house the statue.

The temple was just a regular one until a woman claimed that a miracle happened there in 1665. A woman who had been unable to provide any breast milk took her newborn baby there, and after praying to Kannon, suddenly began to be able to breastfeed.
breast ema
(Photo courtesy of Kuru-raho-n no Heya)

Here are some votive plaques from the temple (Translations are in order from left to right):
1. I want “the beautiful breasts.” Thank you for giving me breasts.
2. C-cup beautiful breasts. You absolutely have to give me bouncy breasts!
3. At the very least, I want C-cup breasts that are almost D-cups. If possible, I also want them to be firm and round.
4. I wish for big breasts. Please don’t make them saggy. I want E-cups.
5. I want big, beautiful breasts. Someday, I want F-cups.
6. I want my small breasts to be at least C-cups.

breast templeaichi
Photo By KKPCW, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license.

Getting there:
From Meitetsu Nagoya Station, take the Inuyama Line bound for Shinunuma to Inuyama Station. Change to the Komaki Line and continue on to Komaki Station. From the station, take the Komaki Junkai Bus. It’s four minutes’ walk from Mama Honmachi Bus Stop. There are detailed directions and a bus map in Japanese here.
Address: Mamahonmachi 152, Komachi-shi

Gyotoku Bird Sanctuary

The Gyotoku Bird Sanctuary is a wonderful getaway spot that you can reach using the Tokyo Subway. It’s home to a huge variety of birds, including herons, egrets, and cormorants.

The sanctuary used to be part of a huge expanse of tidal flat that contained lotus ponds, reeds, and paddy fields until the 1960s. It was known for the large number and vairety of waterfowl, and when the land was going to be reclaimed and developed, there was a dispute between local nature lovers and the authorities. The land got developed, but the Gyotoku Bird Observatory was set up as a compromise.

It has a bird hospital filled with hawks, owls, and other varieties of birds, and there is a great observatory filled with 25 X telescopes that you can use to watch the birds for free.

If you’d like to go in and see the birds close up, there are tours every Sunday that start at 2:00 PM. At Gyotoku, birds come before people’s convenience, and except for the observatory, there are few places that you can see them well, so it would be really worth your while to show up on a Sunday. The tours can be cancelled in case of rain, and it’s recommended that you phone ahead. (See contact information below.)

If you’re a photographer, you’ll probably want at least a 300 mm lens to shoot from the observatory.

The whole place is free, remarkably uncrowded, and is just 30 minutes or so by subway from central Tokyo. Definitely worth checking out if you’re a nature lover.






Getting there:
The sanctuary is accessible from both Gyotoku and Minami Gyotoku Stations on the subway Tozai Line. The fare is 230 yen from Otemachi Station and it takes about 20 minutes. From the subway station, it’s a seven-minute bus ride or a 20-minute walk to the sanctuary.
By bus:
Take the Keisei bus bound for High Town Shiohama/Shin Urayasu Station. Get off at Gyotoku  Ko-ko (high school) and walk 10 minutes.
On foot:
From Gyotoku Station, go out the South Exit. Walk south to the third stoplight, where you’ll see a 7-11 on the corner. Turn right here and walk to the fourth stoplight, going past the Eki Mae Koen. There should be a Family Mart on the corner. Turn left here, and walk seven blocks until you come to a big road. Turn right and walk to the first stoplight. This road takes you into the sanctuary. There may be a better way, but this is how I did it.
Opening hours: Open every day except Monday (if Monday is a national holiday, it will be closed on Tuesday), the last Friday of every month and Dec. 28-Jan. 3.
Admission: Free
Bird watching tour – every Sunday, every national holiday, last Saturday of each month.

Here’s a link to a Google Map of the area (Japanese only): http://www.google.co.jp/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=ja&geocode=&q=%E5%8D%97%E8%A1%8C%E5%BE%B3&sll=35.605411,139.661023&sspn=0.050663,0.06918&ie=UTF8&ll=35.677117,139.913614&spn=0.012654,0.02547&z=16

Address: 4-22-11 Fukuei, Ichikawa, Chiba 272-0137
Tel: 047-397-9046
Official Site: http://www.city.ichikawa.lg.jp/english/guide/0089.html (English)
Official Site: http://www.city.ichikawa.lg.jp/env02/1411000001.html (Japanese)

The Breast Shrine

Japan has both a shrine and temple devoted to breasts, the Karube Shrine in Okayama Prefecture, and Mama Chichi Kannon Temple in Aichi (I’ll post about it next week).

The Karube Shrine in Soja City, Okayama Prefecture is dedicated to the Chichigamisama (Goddess of Breasts), a deity believed to help with everything from safe births to the production of breast milk to breast cancer cures. It was built in 1678, and was once famous for a cherry tree known as the “tarachine cherry tree.” Tarachine means mother, but has the chinese character for “breast” in it, and it seems that the shrine became associated with breasts because of its weeping cherry tree.
Today, you can find many wishes from women suffering from breast cancer, or who are asking the goddess to help them with breastfeeding. And, of course, a few just want a bigger bust.
breast shrine

Photo courtesy of: http://ya7454nora.blog87.fc2.com/blog-entry-83.htmlbreast shrine2

These breast-motif votive plaques cost 2000 yen. There’s ordering information at: http://www.okasci.or.jp/kibiji/kibijinohana/seinenbu.html

Getting there:
From Okayama Station, take the Hakubi Line bound for Niimi to Seion Station. It takes 23 minutes and costs 400 yen. The shrine is three minutes by taxi from Seion Station.
Seion Karube, Soja-shi, Okayama Prefecture.
Tel. 0866-94-0118
Google Maps: http://maps.google.co.jp/maps?t=h&hl=en&ie=UTF8&ll=34.637092,133.729706&spn=0.047244,0.102139&z=14

70% of Mikoshi Groups in Sanja Matsuri Controlled by Yakuza

The Sanja Matsuri is one of the most famous festivals in Japan, attracting millions of visitors every year, but a lot of people probably don’t realize just how deep the yakuza-Sanja connection is. According to an article in the Asahi Shinbun Newspaper, some 70 percent of the groups that participate in the festival are controlled by yakuza. After an incident a couple of years ago in which a man paid money to a yakuza gang to be allowed to ride on top of a mikoshi (in violation of the festival’s rules, and apparently an act of sacrilege), the police investigated 30 some-odd groups of local residents who carry mikoshi. They found that  more than 20 of them were headed up by members of yakuza syndicates.

The festival is apparently a source of funds for the yakuza groups, who siphon off money from the associations, as well as being an opportunity to do some PR work. Most of the yakuza come from the Yamaguchi-gumi or the Sumiyoshi-kai. The original article is here: http://zara1.seesaa.net/article/47720543.html.

I’ve seen the one openly-yakuza mikoshi group before, but I never noticed that they have the name of their gang, the “takahashi-gumi” and “godaime” (fifth generation [of the gang]) written right on the front of their jackets.

The theme of today’s photos is “happy yakuza.”

happy yaks

happy yaks2

festival yaks 4

Kawadoko – Riverside Dining to Beat the Heat

Kyoto, surrounded on three sides by mountains, is known for its cold winters and hot summers. In the days before air conditioners, people devoted a lot of time and energy to beating the summer heat, and one of the things they came up with is the elegant custom of kawadoko, riverside dining.
If you walk along the Kamo-gawa River in central Kyoto, you will see a lot of restaurants with platforms built out over the side of the river where patrons go to get cool and enjoy food or drinks. Another famous place is Kibune, a tiny village north of Kyoto. There’s a long, winding river through a ravine with a lot of old, high-class Japanese inns and kawadoko restaurants.
I went there a couple of years ago, and the kawadoko restaurants were a little pricey for me, but it was a really nice place for walking and taking photos.
There are some excellent descriptions on these blogs and websites:

Gaijin Report: http://www.hotwire.jp/repo/vol4.html (general overview)
Kyoto Travel Plans: http://www.kyoto-okoshiyasu.com/en/see/kawadoko/kibune.html (restaurant list)
Secret Japan: http://www.secret-japan.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=220 (general guide to Kibune and nearby Kurama Onsen)
Kibune official site: http://kibune.jp/ (Japanese only)
Google Maps: http://www.google.co.jp/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=ja&geocode=&q=%E8%B2%B4%E8%88%B9%E3%83%90%E3%82%B9%E5%81%9C&sll=35.104392,135.767498&sspn=0.048872,0.069437&ie=UTF8&ll=35.113485,135.763378&spn=0.024433,0.034719&t=h&z=15

Getting there:
From Kyoto’s Sanjo Station, take the Keihan Honsen Tokkyuu (Limited Express) bound for Demachiyanagi Station. Change to the Eizan Dentetsu Honsen (Eizan Railway Main Line) bound for Anba. Get off at Kibune Guchi Station. It takes about 36 minutes from Sanjo Station, and the fare is 620 yen. From there, you can walk about 1.3 km or take the bus. The bus schedule is here. It’s in Japanese, but the two columns on the left are for weekdays and the two on the right are Sat., Sun., hol. (departure from Kibune Guchi on the left and return on the right) . The buses only run on weekends from around Dec. 8 until Shunbun no Hi (First day of Spring, around Mar. 20). The fare is 160 yen.

Here’s a Google Earth view of the area (click to enlarge):

Kibune map

Expensive Things in Japan

nedan jitenI just finished reading a little book called Anata no Shiranai Nedan Jiten (Dictionary of Costs You Didn’t Know). It’s one of those little 500 yen books people buy to kill time while they’re commuting, and as the title suggests, is about how much things cost. Here are some of the surprising prices (in yen) from the book:

To cover every car on the Yamanote Line with ads from the same company: 14,300,000
To run an ad on the giant TV screen at Studio Alta for a week: 600,000
To open your own dental office: 40,000,000
To start up your own mobile ramen-selling truck: 1,500,000
Yearly unclaimed lottery winnings: 24,900,000,000
Amount paid to performers on NHK’s famous Kohaku Uta Gassen New Year’s program: 60,000
To get a big yakuza-style tattoo on your back: 75-150,000
To rent Tokyo Dome for half a day in the afternoon: 350,000
Estimated damage from an eruption of Mt. Fuji: 2,000,000,000,000
To have a chapel wedding at a top-class hotel: 3,700,000
Average amount paid in tax by a salariman over the course of his life: 46,000,000
To get an annual physical examination at a “ningen dokku” (click the link for a funny Danny Choo story about the poo examination) if the company wasn’t paying for it: 30-50,000
To buy a ten-character kaimyo (a Buddhist name given to people to use in the next world): 850,000
To attend a top-ranked private medical school for six years: 60,000,000

Todoroki Ravine and Kuhonbutsuji Temple

I had an urge to go out and take pictures last weekend, so despite the rain, I headed to the Jiyugaoka area to see Kuhonbutsuji Temple and the Todoroki Ravine. Photographing in the rain isn’t bad at all as long as you have something plastic to keep your camera dry with and you can get some quite interesting shots.

I took the Hibiya and Tokyu Oimachi Lines  Kuhonbutsu Station, which is just a couple minutes walk from Kuhonbutsuji Temple. It’s quite an atmospheric temple with some nice sculptures and a beautiful garden.
kuhonbutsu path

kuhonbutsu feet

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Shinjuku Love Hotel

shinjuku love hotel

love-hotel-coverThere’s more information about   love hotels in my new book, Love Hotels: An Inside Look at Japan’s Sexual Playgrounds. I spent years visiting love hotels around Japan, interviewing love hotel designers, owners and staff, and wading through Japanese books on sex and love hotels to bring you this book.

It’s 182 pages of information about their history, the people who design and operate them, their place in Japanese society, crime, and much, much more. There’s also a love hotel guide with information on how to get to the best hotels in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya, Yokohama, Sapporo, and Fukuoka.

For more information about love hotels, please visit my newly updated love hotel page at: http://www.quirkyjapan.or.tv/lovehotels.html

To order or find out more about the book, please visit: http://www.quirkyjapan.or.tv/lovehotelbookintro.htm. There’s also a smaller guidebook, with just the hotel information for 500 yen: http://www.quirkyjapan.or.tv/lovehotelguide.html.

There are more love hotel-related posts

Fortune Vending Machine


Japan is known for it’s vending machines, and you can buy anything from soft drinks to rice to video games to porn in them. The vending machine in this photo sells omikuji, little papers with a fortune written on them. It’s in the beautiful Narita-san temple near Narita Airport.

Rakan Butsuzo


Some Buddhist statues are serenely beautiful. Others are terrifyingly ferocious. But every once in a while, you’ll come across a cute or funny one. Rakan Butsuzo, images of the disciples of Buddha, are often depicted pulling funny faces, with humorous features, or in bizarre poses. For more information about the bizarre statues at Otagi Nenbutsu Temple, click here.web analytics

There are more photos of Otagi Nenbutsu-ji here.