Monday, December 22, 2008

Joenji Temple

Right in the heart of Shinjuku, amidst office buildings and huge hotels, you're walking along, BAM there's a temple. We were greeted by a gaijinwho had taken his vows (or whatever it is that buddist monks do). And he offered to show us around. "This is where the Emperor's wife comes," he told us "It's kinda a big deal."

This post will be short on Pics however, as we were ask not to post pictures of the inside on the internet. Appearently, a group of roving young muslims in southern Thailand hacked a buddist monk to death. The leaders of this sect of buddism condemned the act, saying "How can you expect your religion to be taken seriously when you go around killing innocent pacifist?" Seriously, who picks on the buddist? Well, as you can imagine this didn't go over well with the muslim extremist, who have made terrorist threats against the temple.  

The temple had two buildings for services, one of which had murals depicting the founders life. He was exiled a lot, and survived a beheading attempt. The executioners sword was struck by lightening, killing him. The rest of this guys enemies decided to leave him alone. He was all about helping the poor (which at that time, 12th century, were numerous). The cematery, actually a bunch of family shrines, includes a shrine for unclaimed people. The destitute, forgotten, unknown deaths in the city are cremated and given rites by this temple. This one grave he told us has 9000 urns in it's underground vault.

Speaking of underground vaults, this temple also has a statue of the founder. It seems this wood carver found a huge tree floating in a lake (appearently good luck) and cut it into three parts, carving a likeness of a saint from each one. This statue was buried in a vault, along with other religous icons, during WWII. Good thing, as the entire of down town Tokyo was oblitereated. But, they forgot where they hid the thing, so it remained buried until 1968 when an excavation for building a parking garage found the vault.

This is one of the exciting sects of buddism, they drink sake, make lots of noise as part of their prayers, and do excrutiating rites to make them selves magical. For 100 days in winter they dump cold water all over them selves several times a day, sleep two hours, and barely eat. People who have done this several times are considered magical enough to do things like build ghost houses. They're building one at Joenji, to take the spirits out of the graveyard and have some where to put them. And you thought all they did is meditate.

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