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:,-9.07,110.0

And a video here:

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:

Here is the temple’s official homepage, in really difficult to read Japanese:


Otaku Photos

I found these on a Japanese blog called  V-blog, which is kind of a “best of 2channel” site. The original 2Channel thread the photos come from seems to be gone, though.

Hina Doll at the Awashima Shrine in Wakayama

Hina doll at Awashima Jinja in Wakayama prefecture. Many Japanese people believe that dolls have souls, so instead of throwing them in the garbage, they take them to a shrine where they are blessed and ritually burned or thrown into the sea.

Other posts with pictures of Awashima Jinja:

The Temple of the Flying Buddha


Shobo-in temple near Asakusa is dedicated to the Buddhist deity Fudo Myo, and is popularly known as Tobi Fudo. Tobi Fudo means “the flying Fudo Myo.” The temple got its nickname in the 1500s when its founder took an image of Fudo Myo to Mt. Omine, some 300 miles away. The story goes that the image flew back to Tokyo one night, to answer the prayers of devotees there.
Today, a lot of young women who are trying to become flight attendants or people who are afraid of flying go there to pray. The wooden board in the photo is an ema, or votive plaque which people use to write their wish on.

For more information about Shobo-in and the Tobi Fudo, visit:



Bird man street performer

A Japanese Garden Ready for Winter


The Horikiri Shobuen is a small but very nice iris garden near my apartment in Katsushika Ward. It gets jam-packed in early June when the irises are in bloom, but is quite beautiful and nearly empty the rest of the year.

When I visited last Sunday, all the plants were covered in straw, ready for the winter. The idea is that the straw will attract bugs because it’s warmer, keeping them away from the plant itself. I’m not sure if it’s any more true than the popular pet-bottle theory of keeping cats away from your house or not, but it’s very attractive.


This straw-rope carousel is called a yukitsuri. It’s supposed to be to support the branches of the tree when they are covered in snow, but seeing as Tokyo only gets a light sprinkling of white stuff three or four times a year, I have an idea that they’re more ornamental now. There’s a good explanation of Yukitsuri at:

The Horikiri Shobuen is near Horikirishobuen Station on the Keisei Railways main line. It’s a nice place to visit if you’re in the area, but probably not worth a long trip.



If you were opening up a shop in North America, you would probably check to make sure that there wasn’t too much competition nearby. It always seemed like common sense to me when I was living in Canada, but since I’ve been living in Japan, I’ve come to question the assumption.
There are a large number of districts in Tokyo where similar businesses are all grouped together. Ochanomizu has a couple dozen music shops, Kanda has a street of used book stores, Asakusabashi has bead shops, Akihabara has electronics, and on and on. It seems that the shops have a synergy, attracting more customers because people know that they can get a good price and selection if they go to the area, increasing patronage to all the shops.
One of the oddest shopping districts I’ve come across is Bonsai Mura in Saitama City. There are about 10 nurseries here, and people come from all over Japan to visit them. Apparently a number of Tokyo bonsai masters decided to move out there after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, and set up their own little community with strict rules and regulations about buildings, fences, and behavior, one of which is that they have to open their gardens to the public.
It’s quite fascinating to wander around, and the staff seems to enjoy talking about the trees. By the way, photography is not permitted, and I was lucky that the old lady who worked there offered to turn her back while I took my picture.
There’s quite a good website with history of the area and information about visiting at:

The official site ( is almost all in Japanese, except for this profile of the gardeners:

Professional baby namer


The sign on this Osaka business says Akachan no nazuke (Baby Naming). This branch of Japanese fortunetelling invovlves helping parents choose a name for their baby that will bring him or her good fortune based on the number of strokes.

Kobudo at Meiji Shrine Culture Day Festival

Every year on November third, thousands of martial artists gather on the grounds of the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo to give demonstrations of their techniques. There’s karate, aikido, kyudo, and jujutsu, but also some very unusual arts such as yabusame (horseback archery), and nawa-jutsu (rope fighting). The day culminates with a demonstration of samurai firearms called hinawaju.
If you like photography, you’re sure to get some great shots of martial artists in action.


By the way, the guy getting flipped over his opponent’s back with a steel chain around his neck just rolled out of it, completely unhurt.



Here are some other photos of the festival: