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Words-and-Pictures: Kasadera Kannon

(as seen on October 2nd, 2001, on the Old Tokaido stage of the Aki Meguri)

Note: This fine Buddhist temple is located between Narumi and Miya (Nagoya) in Aichi Prefecture, which are Stations # 40 and 41 respectively (from Tokyo) on the Old Tokaido Highway.  You can read about my visit to Kasadera in my Logbook.  You may also choose to start reading about my Tokaido journey at the beginning, or start at the top of my Aki Meguri pages.
 
This place has all the elements of any of the big Kannon temples of western Japan.  Here are a few:

The great Kannon temples--like many other temples--are often entered through a Niomon, or "Two Kings Gate."  The larger-than-life-sized kings stand in the two bays on either side of the gate. (Sorry about the quality of the kings' pictures; they're behind chicken wire to keep the pigeons off them!)

The traditional interpretation is that these guys look scary, and you must be pure of heart to pass them.  But there's more to them than that.

 

Note that this "king" has his mouth closed.  The next one has his mouth open.  There are various ways to  interpret this.

One is that the open-mouthed king is saying "A"; the one with his mouth closed is saying "UN."  In Japanese, "A-UN" is the approximation of the Hindu universal sound "Aum" or "Om."

So through the great sound "Aum" we approach the Buddha.

 

Another interpretation says that these are the Yin and Yang of opposition.  By going through the center, we transcend this duality and reach the One.

I like that one a lot, but this third one is my favorite.

The historical Buddha taught that Fear and Desire are two of the greatest hindrances to spiritual growth.  So the open-mouthed king represents desire--he wants to take in everything.  The closed-mouthed king represents fear--he partakes of nothing.

If we can get past Fear and Desire, we can be where the Buddha is.

On to other elements: Here is a very typical main hall, bedecked with banners and a large, colorful curtain.  Inside the hall there is usually--as here--a large area for worshippers, screened off from the images; and also a window that sells trinkets, candles, incense, etc.

At first, I couldn't figure out why the curtain on the main hall was marked with UFOs.  Then I remembered the name of the temple, "Kasadera."  Dera or tera means "temple," and kasa means "umbrella."  But it's also the name for the type of hat I wear--which is depicted here.  The umbrella and the hat serve the same function--protection from sun and rain--and thus have the same name.
Here is a two-story pagoda like the one I saw at Chiryu Shrine yesterday.

Any good Kannon temple has lots...
...and lots of subsidiary halls dedicated to various gods (often including a Daishido dedicated to Kobo Daishi).

 
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