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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

 

Fearsome Nio at Entsuu-ji Temple

Entsuu-ji is a kind of a cheesy-looking Zen Temple near Minami-senju Station in Tokyo, but it has some really cool Buddhist sculptures.

These are kongo rikishi, the “power lords of the diamond realm,” and they stand guard at many Buddhist temples in Japan. Bare-chested, sneering deities, the kongo rikishi are not your average Buddhas. Unlike the serene Kannon, Amida and Jizo statues, their ferocious faces and body-builder physiques are meant to frighten off evil spirits from the temple grounds, and in fact, they’re not true Buddhas at all, but rather protectors of the Buddha.

Kongo Rikishi also represent the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.

Look closely at their faces and you’ll notice that one, the Missha Kongo (the secret-knowing Kongo) always has his mouth closed, and one, the Mishabe Kongo, (the secret-speaking Kongo) always has his mouth open.

Entsu-ji probably isn’t worth a special trip, but you might want to combine it with a visit to the Yoshiwara former red-light district or the Kotsukappara Execution Grounds.

Here is the temple’s homepage (in Japanese only) http://www6.plala.or.jp/entsuji/

Getting there: From Minami-senju Station, go out of the West Exit, turn left, and walk to the stop lights. Turn right and walk north to the next set of lights. Turn left, and walk to the second set of lights, which is a big road called Nikko Kaido or Route 4. Cross the street, and turn left. Entsu-ji will be on your right. You can also take Exit 3 from Minowa Subway Station, turn right, and north on Nikko Kaido/Route 4. Coming from Minowa, Entsu-ji will be on your left.Address: Tokyo, Arakawa-ku, Minami-senju 1-59-11 (Japanese: 東京都 荒川区南千住1-59-11)

TEl. 03-3891-1368

These are Kongo Rikishi (aka Nio),Kongo rikishi, the “power lords of the diamond realm,” stand guard at many Buddhist temples in Japan. Bare-chested, sneering deities, the kongo rikishi are not your average Buddhas. Unlike the serene Kannon, Amida and Jizo statues, their ferocious faces and body-builder physiques are meant to frighten off evil spirits from the temple grounds, and in fact, they’re not true Buddhas at all, but rather protectors of the Buddha.

Kongo Rikishi also represent the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. Look closely at their faces and you’ll notice that the one on the left, the Missha Kongo (the secret-knowing Kongo) always has his mouth closed, and the one on the right, the Mishabe Kongo (the secret-speaking Kongo) always has his mouth open.

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Wavy Tokyo

My new digital camera has a panorama photo feature. I discovered that if you tilt the camera back and forth as you pan, you get this kind of cool wavy effect. Please click on the photos to get the full effect of the panorama.

This is the view from my apartment.

This is the Shinobazu Ike in Ueno Park.

Here’s a train platform in Ueno Station.

Sorry for the lack of posts lately! I was trying to update this blog once a week, but it looks like I was a little ambitious. My new goal is “a couple of times a month.”
The big reason I haven’t been able to do many updates is that having a baby makes it difficult to go out and take pictures. I think I’ve solved that problem, though, by buying an EVIL camera, the Sony NEX-3. In case you don’t know, EVIL stands for Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens. It’s basically an SLR with no viewfinder. You use the screen on the back of the camera to compose your photos, and because there’s no viewfinder, they don’t need to put a mirror inside it, making the body almost as small as a compact digital camera.
Despite its small size, the lens and sensor are great, and the photos are about the same quality as an entry-level DSLR. The ISO is also excellent, which is why I chose it over other cameras like the Olympus Pen. I’m not afraid to take it up to 1,600, or 3,200 in a pinch.
It’s easy for my wife to use as a point-and-shoot, but also offers full control of the shutter, aperture, and focus for me. I’d really recommend it for anyone looking for a reasonably priced, easy-to-carry camera that takes excellent photos.

By the way, if you’re thinking about buying one, Yodobashi and Sofmap charge over 60,000 yen for the double lens kit, but I found it at a little shop called Akiba Oroshiuri Center in Yushima for 50,000. It’s basically an online shop, and they do most of their business through Kakaku.com, a famous price-comparison site, but when I went there in person, the owner let me open up the box, and he had excellent product knowledge (Address: Tokyo, Bunkyo-ku, Yushima, 3-27-12. Tel. 03-5818-8135 / FAX. 03-5818-8156). I’ve always been leery of buying from kakaku.com before, but now I think I was crazy for not trying it before.

Rainbow Bridge Walk

The Rainbow Bridge is a Tokyo landmark connecting the island of Odaiba with the rest of the city. At the end of Golden Week, I decided to walk across it and see a different view of Odaiba and Tokyo Bay. It’s actually quite a nice spot and I was quite happy with some of the photos.

Everyone knows that Odaiba is a man-made island, but I had no idea that it dates back from just after World War II or that there were once seven such “daiba” built or planned during the Edo Period for defense against the West. They were originally called houdai, and they contained cannon batteries and powder magazines. This photo shows the Daisan Daiba (third daiba), which is now a very nice and little-visited park that you can get to from the Odaiba side.

The famous Fuji TV building.

The walk along the bridge usually starts from Tamachi Station on the Yamanote Line. Go out the West Exit and walk straight down Nagisa Dori Street, and you will come to the bridge after a 10 or 15 minute  walk. Shibaura Station on the subway Yurikamome Line.

These fire department boats were practicing for some kind of display.

This is the Dairoku Daiba. It has been left to nature, and no visitors allowed on it. It seems a little strange in such a crowded city. If you know why it has neither been developed nor destroyed, please leave the answer in the comments!

The air on the Tokyo side is quite dirty, and the scenery is rather  industrial, so if you just want to go for the views, it might be better to start from Tokyo Teleport Station on the Odaiba side and not cross.

Here’s an interesting post (Japanese only) about the history of the area’s development:

http://oldmaproom.aki.gs/m03a_coastline/m03a_daiba/daiba.htm

The Tire Park

Tokyo’s Nishirokugo Koen, better known as Tire Koen, is about the most unusual park I’ve ever seen. Most of the equipment is built out of old tires, and there are Godzillas, rocket ships, and giant robots.





Getting there: Tire Koen is Ota Ward, almost in Kawasaki. It’s about 10 minutes’ walk from Kamata Station on the JR Keihin Tohoku Line. Go out of the West Exit, and turn left. Walk south, going past a Tokyu Store on the left, and then a 7-11 and McDonald’s on the right. Walk south about ten minutes keeping the tracks on your left, and you’ll come to park.
Address: 2-1-1 Kamata Honmachi, Ota-ku. Tel. 03-5713-1118

Website: http://www.city.ota.tokyo.jp/midokoro/park/nishirokkugou_taiya_kouen/index.html (Japanese only)

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.

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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.

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Here are some other photos of the festival:
http://qjphotos.wordpress.com/2008/09/13/horseback-archery/
http://qjphotos.wordpress.com/2008/09/03/nawajutsu/
http://qjphotos.wordpress.com/2008/11/16/kyudo-demonstration-at-the-meiji-shrine/
http://qjphotos.wordpress.com/2008/10/22/samurai-reenactors-2/

Salt and Tobacco Museum

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I was in Shibuya the other day, and happened to walk past the Tobacco and Salt Museum. I haven’t been there for years, and they were holding an interesting looking exhibition of paintings from the Edo Period, so I decided to check it out.
The paintings were gorgeous, and although it’s maybe too small to make a special trip for, if you happen to be in Shibuya before November 30, it’s only 300 yen and quite enjoyable.
You can also see some of the pictures here. The site is in Japanese, but even if you can’t read, just click on the text immediately beneath the flash presentation: http://www.jti.co.jp/Culture/museum/tokubetu/0810_event/index.html

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The tobacco and salt museum is about Japan’s two of Japan’s most important commodities. This diorama shows a tobacco shop from the Edo Period.

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Japan doesn’t have natural salt deposits, so they had to get all their salt from the sea.

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A model ship made of salt.

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Old tobacco ads.

The tobacco museum’s website and contact information are here: http://www.jti.co.jp/Culture/museum/Welcome.html

Kyudo demonstration at the Meiji Shrine

The Culture Day (Nov. 3) Festival at the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo is something I look forward to every year. I’ve been four times, and still get excited about going because it’s so great for photography. I tried out the Jidai Matsuri in Asakusa last year, but a lot of the costumes were kind of cheesy, and it was so crowded it was hard to take photos.

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The festival starts at 9:00 in the morning, but the first big event is the kyuudo (Japanese archery) demonstration, which starts at 11:00.

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This old man seemed really shaky – except when he had a bow in his hands.

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Everyone was given a small cup of sacred sake after the ceremony.

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The hats are kind of funny, but the kimono are just gorgeous.

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There are more photos of this festival at:

http://qjphotos.wordpress.com/2008/09/03/nawajutsu/

http://qjphotos.wordpress.com/2008/10/22/samurai-reenactors-2/