A Visit to Kongobuji, Part 2: The Dragon Garden

A Visit to Kongobuji, Part 2: The Dragon Garden

(To start the visit to Kongobuji from the beginning, click here.) After entering the main building of Kongobuji, visitors pass through the gold-doored ohiroma (sadly, no photos allowed) and along a hallway with wooden floors worn smooth by time and the passage of many feet. Like many Japanese temples, Kongobuji features gardens in every outdoor space, no matter how small.

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A Visit to Kongobuji, Part 1

A Visit to Kongobuji, Part 1

Originally constructed in 1593 on the order of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Kongobuji is currently the head temple of Koyasan Shingon Buddhism in Japan. Kongobuji means “Temple of the Diamond Mountain Peak.” The temple acquired this name after joining with another temple (which was also the time when it became the head temple of Koyasan Shingon). 

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Kyoto’s Golden Pavilion, Kinkakuji (Part 1)

Kyoto’s Golden Pavilion, Kinkakuji (Part 1)

Kinkakuji ranks high among Kyoto’s most popular tourist sites, and with good reason. Its famous golden pavilion, which stands on the edge of a peaceful lake, is a lovely and well-maintained example of Buddhist architecture.   But many visitors don’t realize that “kinkakuji” (temple of the golden pavilion) is not actually the temple’s real name.

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A Visit to Nakamise Shopping Street (Part 1)

A Visit to Nakamise Shopping Street (Part 1)

Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple, Senso-ji, is also one of my favorites. The massive Kaminarimon, or Thunder Gate, is one of Asakusa’s best-known landmarks: and visitors often take photos with the gate’s massive chochin, which weighs almost 1,500 pounds. But a visit to Senso-ji is not complete without a stroll down Nakamise Shopping Street – the vibrant line of shops and stalls that lines the approach to the temple. Traditionally, vendors’ stalls or shops line the approach to Japanese shrines and temples. The goods on display can vary, but they usually include a variety of tasty local specialties, like these small cakes

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Remembering the Unborn: Kiyomizudera’s Mizuko-Kannon

Remembering the Unborn: Kiyomizudera’s Mizuko-Kannon

The Japanese term mizuko (literally, “water child”) refers to a deceased baby, infant, or fetus. This includes stillborn and miscarried children as well as those who died by abortion, and in some cases also applies to babies that die shortly after birth. A funerary rite, called mizuko kuyō, is often performed on behalf of these children, and Japan has many shrines honoring mizuko–mostly in combination with statues of Jizō, a kind incarnation of the Buddha who is considred the patron and protector of mizuko. 

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Temple and Toilet Slippers in Japan

Temple and Toilet Slippers in Japan

Most Japanese people don’t wear shoes inside. Apartments and houses typically have a small, lowered area just inside the door for removing shoes and a cabinet by the door where shoes are stored. This keeps the indoor spaces clean and undefiled – and it has been the custom in Japan for many hundreds (if not thousands) of years.

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