Tough Guys

Grouchy Buddha, Gotokuji

I am not even slightly religious, but I find myself spending a lot of time in shrines and temples. Why not? They’re everywhere. They’re quiet, clean, and best of all free. In this groaning city of 12 million souls, they are oases of peace, perfect escapes from towering office buildings, crowded trains, and noise, noise, noise. Today I found a temple and a shrine that I hadn’t been to before. I’ve been here long enough that discovering this kind of thing…

Gotokuji Buddhist Temple

…doesn’t strike me as odd anymore, although this is one of the loveliest pagodas I’ve ever seen. The graveyard attached to the complex has a large section dedicated to high-level samurai. In the midst of that, I found this Buddha. I don’t know why he’s in such a bad mood. Maybe he doesn’t like people piling stones in his lap.

Next to the temple complex was Setagaya Hachimon Shinto Shrine complex. Buddhism is serious business; Shinto takes itself less seriously. Many Japanese say they are Buddhist at birth and death and nothing much in between, but Shinto offers opportunities to make wishes and generally hope for the best.

Setagaya Hachimon seems to have some connection with sumo, or at least with tough guys in general. Along with a koi pond and several shrine buildings, there was a sumo amphitheater:

And I think this might be my favorite feature of the whole experience: Chikara Ishi, or Power Stones. Each one is engraved with the weight of the stone and the name of the tough guy who actually managed to lift it. Pretty cool.


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