There were a couple years during which my shita no ani (younger older brother) and I would watch lots and lots of kung fu movies. The raspy, dubbed voice of a monk saying to the protagonist in one of them “Buddha bleeeeeess youuuuuuu” has stayed in my mind for all these years. I don’t know why.
The last Saturday in August I went with two friends to the Buddhist temple Nanzouin (南蔵院) in Sasagurimachi, which is about a 30 minute train ride from where I live. There were very few people there when we went, though we did get there kinda late, at around 3PM. There’s not much to explain of the pictures themselves, but since I don’t like going to famous places without knowing anything about them, snapping pictures, and leaving, I did a little research and will write the fruits of that effort below. Contrary to what the foreigners around here know, it’s not just because there’s a really big Buddha there. (Can you tell that checklist sightseeing is one of my pet peeves? ^o^;;;)
According to the Japanese version of Wikipedia, Sasagurimachi has been considered sacred ground since the Tenpou Era (1830-1844). If I understood the article correctly, a nun who had made a pilgrimage to the designated 88 holy temples of Shikoku arrived in Sasagurimachi, saw the distress of the people, and began praying for them and spreading the teachings of Buddha. Soon thereafter there was peace, so the villagers started making many sculptures of Buddha, and to correspond with the 88-temple pilgrimage circuit in Shikoku, there came to be an 88-temple pilgrimage circuit in Sasagurimachi. So, on the way to Nanzouin’s main hall proper, we saw many sculptures, small temples, and minor halls. Also a kitty cat.
Soon after that, we reached the main hall. There I bought a 交通安全お守り (koutsuu anzen omamori), a traffic safety charm, but one specifically for bicycles. The back is adhesive so you can stick it on your bike. It looks like a red reflector. I’ll add a picture of it later. (I kept forgetting to do it. ^o^;)
Then it was time for the highlight of the temple, the bronze reclining Buddha.
According to the temple’s website linked above, this sculpture was built to house the ashes of a Buddha and two disciples that were donated by a Buddhist society in Myanmar (Burma) as a thank-you for years of donations made by Nanzouin to the poor in Myanmar and Nepal. The canisters in front of the Buddha contain sand from the grounds of each of the 88 temples of both Shikoku and Sasagurimachi.
That’s pretty much it. If you want to visit the Reclining Buddha, it’s very simple: from Hakata Station, get on the Sasaguri Line (AKA Fukuhoku Yutaka Line) and get off at Kido Nanzouin-mae. When you exit the station you’ll see the top of Buddha’s head peaking out from some trees.