|Temple #83: Ichinomiyaji (The Temple
of the First Shrine)
Honzon: Sho Kannon (Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva)
This is a pretty, modest temple.
The name makes it clear that at one point it was connected to its
next-door neighbor, the "Number One Shrine" of Sanuki-no-kuni,
now Kagawa prefecture.
The layout makes this obvious.
The front gate is located on a narrow lane, directly across from the
side wall of Tamura Jinja, the "#1 shrine." One imagines
that in days past, the wall wasn't there. One would enter the
shrine at the big torii and advance toward the honden or
main hall. Just before reaching it, one could have turned left and
entered the main gate of the temple. But at some point, a wall was
built, and that is no longer possible (as it still is at some other
temples we've seen).
I assumed that the separation took
place as a result of the Meiji Restoration. But the Bishop says it
was done "by order of the lord of Takamatsu castle" in 1679.
He also says the shrine was built after the temple, in the
temple's grounds. Both of these ideas are different from what
usually happens. If the temple came first, why is it named for the
Ichinomiyaji's only "feature"
is these three lovely old tombstones, dating to the 13th-century.
Now for Surprise Number 1: When I went up
to Temple Number 65 almost a week ago, I was surprised when the priest
in the stamp office greeted me with, "Hisashiburidesu!"
usually translated "Long time no see!" He had mistaken
me for someone else--in fact, a German. We had a good laugh about
it, and I told him that the next time I came, he'd better
When I approached the stamp office at
Number 83 today, the lady at the counter looked up at me with a start,
and said, "Je-mu-su-san?" No mistake here: she called me
by name. "Hai?" I replied, a little startled
myself. And she pointed to a note posted on the office window.
Remember my friends the Ikedas, who
kindly took me in their car on October 28th?
Well, they live near here. And they left me a note asking me to
call them. (I'll do it tomorrow; I returned to my hotel too late
Wasn't that amazing? I guess they
followed my progress on this site, and anticipated my arrival.
Now it was around 3:30, and since I had
decided this was my last stop, I figured I'd dawdle awhile. So I
went next door to see the shrine.
And I'm so glad I did.
Surprise Number 2: I forgot that this is Shichi-Go-San season.
Although the "Seven-Five-Three" festival is officially on
November 15th, people celebrate it on any convenient day around that
On this date, girls aged 3 and 7 and
boys aged 5 (in some areas, also boys aged 3) visit a shrine in formal
wear for a blessing, and prayers for health and long life. The
"formal wear" in question is usually Japanese, although some
families are recently opting for Western wear. Even this, though,
can be very traditional; I saw a boy today in a suit and short pants!
Another tradition is that parents give
their children Chitose (thousand-year) candy, a kind of rock
candy to guarantee strength and long life. It comes in an envelope
decorated with symbols of longevity, including cranes and turtles.
(It may also be a kind of reward for putting up with the hassle of
wearing a kimono, being quiet during the ceremony, etc.)
The tradition dates back to samurai
times. In families of that class, three was the age when
children's hair was allowed to grow out (before this their heads were
shaved); at 5, boys wore hakama (formal men's wear) for the first
time; and at 7, girls stopped using a cord and started using an obi
sash on their kimono.
Commoners began following these
practices in the later Edo period, and today's customs were formalized
in the Meiji period.
It's still a popular tradition.
Year after year I have traveled in November, and happened upon this
celebration all over the country. According to several websites,
Hie Jinja in Tokyo hosts over 2,000 celebrations every year!
Several sites also mention that the
date November 15 was chosen because it was auspicious. Actually,
Japan's two other major rites-of-passage days are also situated on the
15th of the month. "Adult Day" for those who have turned
20 is on January 15th, and "Respect for the Aged Day" for
those who have turned 60 is on September 15th.
This is the Western calendar instituted
by the Meiji; previously, ju-go-ya, the fifteenth day, was the
day of the full moon. So there's probably a little trickery going
on regarding these modern dates. (By the way, the ju-go-ya of
the ninth month--now considered to be September--was the date of the
Moon Viewing Festival, or Tsukimi. It was probably the full
moon nearest to the Autumn Equinox in days past, when the most gorgeous
full moons rise just after sunset.)
Now you have some historic background; but
the real point of all this is: darned cute kids!
Photographers like to hang around shrines on this day to get some
pictures; I have a few dozen from years past. I'm so glad I went
to the shrine today, as this will be my last Shichi-Go-San for
awhile. So here are a few pictures, as well as some other features
from the shrine.
And so I went out for dinner, returned to
the hotel, and wrote this for you. I had thought that tomorrow
would be my last day before returning to Number 1, but it has been
delayed by a day.
Several writers have mentioned that
pilgrims tend to rush through the last few temples, then linger at
Number 88, sorry that it's over. I find myself wanting to slow
down now. It may just be exhaustion (I am tired) but
I also find myself savoring the places, in a way I wasn't prone to a
week or two ago. I know that when I return to Tokyo the pace will
change; I still have a couple more short pilgrimages to do up there, but
they won't be "the Big One." And of course, in a little
over a month, I'll be back in the States. So I'm starting to
commemorate "lasts": my last "Culture Day," my last
Shichi-Go-San, my last hotel before returning to familiar
My last sentence of the night.