Jomyo-in, the Jizo Temple

I rode my bicycle past Jomyo-in Temple hundreds of times on my way to work, never suspecting that it might be worth visiting until last year they started doing construction on it, and I got a look inside because one of the walls was torn down. It’s actually pretty interesting because its filled wall-to-wall with thousands of Jizo sculptures.

Before the Meiji Restoration, all of Ueno Park and a lot of it’s surroundings were one huge temple called Kan’ei-ji, and Jomyo-in was one of its 36 sub-temples. Kan’ei-ji was closely associated with the Tokugawa Shoguns, and Jomyo-in is named for the mother of the fourth Tokugawa Shogun, Tokugawa Ietsuna.

The temple was renamed Jomyo-in in 1723. The front gate is said to date back from this time.

The jizo thing was started by a monk called Myoun, who became the chief priest of the temple in 1876. He was originally from Osaka, and at the age of 25, while living as a hermit at a temple in Nikko, he came have great faith in Jizo. He started out with the idea of making a thousand jizo statues, but when they were finished, he started thinking big and decided to go for 84,000. The temple and some sites that I checked seem to indicate that there really are 84,000 jizo statues there, but there clearly aren’t.

There’s a really cool 360 degree panoramic photo of the temple here: http://www.360cities.net/image/jomyoin#695.86,-9.07,110.0

And a video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UY_gi-UPjo4&playnext=1&list=PL851D134A302A2D60

The temple is right next to the entrance of the Yanaka Cemetery.

There’s a very good map and detailed access information on this PDF: https://www.meanwhile-in-japan.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/yanaka.pdf

Here is the temple’s official homepage, in really difficult to read Japanese: http://www.tendaitokyo.jp/jiinmei/jinss/ss3jyomyo.asp

 

Buddhist Pet Funerals

I hear the word “pettoro-su” (pet loss) surprisingly often these days, and it seems a lot of funeral parlors and graveyards are springing up to help bereaved owners put their loved ones to rest. One of the biggest companies is called Petto Ceremoni- Makoto (Sincere Pet Ceremonies), and it offers a wide range of pet funerals and cremations.

If you want to give your pet a sendoff, they have contracts with Buddhist temples to perform ceremonies.

After the funeral, you can have your pet’s ashes stores in a charnel house. According to their brochure, “The Shou Kannon watches over the charnel house. It’s said to be a Bodhisattva with great compassion, so you’ll be able to feel confident that your beloved pet’s soul is resting in peace through it’s enfolding kindness.” The urn storage service is free the first year, and costs 5,000 yen per year after that.

Here’s an article with more information about pet funerals: http://www.asiaone.com/News/Latest%2BNews/Asia/Story/A1Story20090702-152168.html

http://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/kannon.shtml#ShoKannonSh

Odd sights in a Japanese Graveyard

These graves are all from the Ushiku Joen, the cemetery around the Ushiku Daibutsu.

grave10

grave8

As far as I know, “One Piece” is a manga about pirates and has nothing to do with volleyball. If anyone has an explanation for this, put it in the comments, please.

grave7

An English tombstone tells the world that you’re international, even in death.

Read more

Daigo Fukuryu Maru Exhibition Hall

If you take my advice and visit the Yumenoshima Tropical Greenhouse Dome, an excellent botanical garden with tons of exotic flowers, you might also want to stop in at the Daigo Fukuryu Maru Exhibition Hall.
I chanced upon it while exploring the park that the botanical garden is in, and popped my head in the door wondering why there was a big wooden boat on land in the park. I took a couple of photos, and was about to leave because I though it was just a museum about tuna fishing.

daigofukuryumaru2

Then I noticed the pictures of the sailors with radiation burns and the paper cranes. It turns out that the place is a monument to a tragic nuclear accident that happened in the 1950s. When America was testing the hydrogen bomb in the Bikini Islands in 1954, they underestimated the power of the bomb, which turned out to be twice as powerful as they thought. The boat entered the fallout area, and all 23 of its crew members were exposed to high levels of radiation.
There’s more information about the incident at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daigo_Fukury%C5%AB_Maru

daigofukuryumaru1

It’s quite a small museum that you can see in a few minutes. There are some English translations of newspaper articles about the incident, so it’s pretty easy to understand. Admission is free.
There’s a map of the park and access information at: http://www.kensetsu.metro.tokyo.jp/kouen/kouenannai/park/english/yumenoshima.pdf

yumejima-harbor

Marina nearby the Daigo Fukuryu Maru Museum.

Love Hotel Crime and an S&M Hotel

Hope you’re not getting tired of love hotels. Today’s sample from my book is about the dark side of love hotels, an incredible S&M hotel in Roppongi called the Alpha-In, and a description of some of the shocking crimes that have taken place in them.

Microsoft Word - lovehotelsMicrosoft Word - lovehotels

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 love hotels – 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 just 500 yen: http://www.quirkyjapan.or.tv/lovehotelguide.html

Paradize Park in Izu

gokurakuen-1

A diorama of what happens to murderers and thieves in the Buddhist hell.

The Izu Gokurakuen (Izu Paradise Park) is a strange attraction in  a popular hot spring in the Izu peninsula, which is filled with gruesome dioramas of the Buddhist hells that would give Stephen King the willies.  There are hundreds of little mannequins and dolls having their heads torn off, their skin flayed, being boiled alive and forced to eat  their own feces.  After the hells, it’s off to the Pure Land, where we learn that the temperature is the same as in Hawaii and that there is no rent or key money in Heaven.  It’s all based on a famous Buddhist text called the Ojoyoshu, the oriental equivalent of Dante’s Divine Comedy.  The oddest thing about it all is that it’s run by a family who worked together to make all the gruesomely realistic museum and it seems to be a popular stop for tour buses full of middle-aged couples.
ADDRESS: 370-1 Shimofunahara, Amagiyugashima-cho, Tagata-gun, Shizuoka, TEL: (0558) 87 0253, Admission 900 yen, Open 10-6, closed Thursdays.

Other posts about Paradise Park:

http://qjphotos.wordpress.com/2008/11/07/paradise-park-in-izu/

http://qjphotos.wordpress.com/2008/09/15/konseishin-the-penis-god/

http://qjphotos.wordpress.com/2008/05/18/izu-gokurakuen/

http://qjphotos.wordpress.com/2008/02/23/16/

Paradise Park in Izu

gokurakuen5

Judge at the gates of Hell.

The Izu Gokurakuen (Izu Paradise Park) is a strange attraction in  a popular hot spring in the Izu peninsula, which is filled with gruesome dioramas of the Buddhist hells that would give Stephen King the willies.  There are hundreds of little mannequins and dolls having their heads torn off, their skin flayed, being boiled alive and forced to eat  their own feces.  After the hells, it’s off to the Pure Land, where we learn that the temperature is the same as in Hawaii and that there is no rent or key money in Heaven.  It’s all based on a famous Buddhist text called the Ojoyoshu, the oriental equivalent of Dante’s Divine Comedy.  The oddest thing about it all is that it’s run by a family who worked together to make all the gruesomely realistic museum and it seems to be a popular stop for tour buses full of middle-aged couples.
ADDRESS: 370-1 Shimofunahara, Amagiyugashima-cho, Tagata-gun, Shizuoka, TEL: (0558) 87 0253, Admission 900 yen, Open 10-6, closed Thursdays.

Other posts about Paradise Park:

http://qjphotos.wordpress.com/2008/09/15/konseishin-the-penis-god/

http://qjphotos.wordpress.com/2008/05/18/izu-gokurakuen/

http://qjphotos.wordpress.com/2008/02/23/16/

Yanaka Cemetery

Though perhaps not an A-list attraction, the Yanaka Cemetery is certainly worth a visit, especially if you are a resident of Tokyo or have an interest in the city’s history. Located north of the Ueno district, it stretches between Uguisudani Station and Nippori, two stops away on the Yamanote Line. It’s home to many famous Japanese luminaries, including the last Shogun, Tokugawa Yoshinobu, a painter called Yokoyama Taikan, and the famous writer Ichiyo Higuchi. (She’s the lady on the 5000 yen note.)

An incredibly cheerful and friendly grave cleaner with her wonderful utility bike. The cleaning staff pedals all over the monstrous graveyard on them.

The cemetery is over 100,000 square meters, and there are more than 7000 graves to clean, so the groundskeepers use these bikes to get around.

There’s a little playground as well.

It’s also got its own police box!

Paying respects on Shubun no Hi (The Autumnal Equinox)

If you’re interested in a walking tour, you might want to start at Nishi-Nippori Station. It’s not officially part of the graveyard, but there are a lot of small temples, and a pleasant walk along an old-fashioned neighborhood.
The best time to visit is in cherry blossom season, as there are thousands of cherry blossom trees in the cemetery. Going during the Obon holidays (Aug. 13-15), around the first day of spring, and around the first day of fall are also interesting because there are a lot of people there cleaning graves.

This site has some good walking tours:
http://www.digi-promotion.com/tokyo-neighborhoods/yanaka/
There’s also a useful pamphlet you can pick up called the “Arakawa City Nippori Walking Map” at tourist information centers.
Here’s a list of famous people buried in the cemetery: http://www.findagrave.com/php/famous.php?FScemeteryid=1059268&page=cem
Another post about “grave cleaning day”: http://qjphotos.wordpress.com/2008/09/24/grave-cleaning-day/

Mizuko Shrine

Shrine for “mizuko,” aborted and miscarried babies.

Grave Cleaning Day

In the traditional Tokyo neighborhood of Yanaka, the smell of incense and sounds of people scrubbing gravestones fills the air every year on September 23. It’s higan, the time of the equinox, and Japanese people go to graveyards all over the country for ohaka mairi (grave visits) to pay their respects to their ancestors.
It’s said that the Higan observance comes from a Buddhist belief that when the night and day are equally divided, Buddha appears on earth for a week to save stray souls and lead them to Nirvana, so there are observances both in spring (shunbun) and autumn (shubun).

A woman on her way to pay her respects at a grave.

This woman is carrying a sotoba, a wooden stick which has the deceased person’s kaimyo written on it. A kaimyo is a special name that is given to the person after he or she dies.

A typical grave.