Yasui Konpira-gu Shrine, Kyoto
This temple wasn’t on our shortlist of those we really wanted to visit (there are so very many, especially in Kyoto) but it should have been. Instead, we stumbled across it when walking from Kennin-ji to Yasaka Pagoda. The entrance is in a quiet residental street, through a beautiful stone tori gate.
I was mesmerised watching a queue of young girls take their turns passing through a small hole in a paper-covered stone. Each one would wriggle through one way and then make her way back through the other.
Apparently, this is The Stone of Breaking and Bonding, also nicknamed The Divorce Stone, and is known for its power to end bad relationships and start new, positive ones. Supplicants purchase a paper charm, write their wish upon it, glue it onto the stone and pass through the hole. One direction asks the resident deities to breaks bonds, the other to make them.
The temple is also home to Kushi Matsuri, an annual festival offering thanks to hair combs, a key item in traditional Japanese women’s wear.
Yasaka Koshin-do / Kongo-ji, Kyoto
Right by the Yasaka-no-to Pagoda, we looked through a large red wooden doorway to spot this unusual temple within.
The temple is dedicated to Shomen Kongo, a guardian warrior, and to the three wise monkeys. Shomen Kongo’s nickname is Koshin-san, and Koshin is the faith represented here, incorporating elements from Taoism, Shintoism and Buddhism. Koshin-san is said help those who strive to be good (and to punish those who are bad).
The hut containing Koshin-san’s likeness is hung with kukurizaru – coloured balls of fabric in the form of good faith monkeys, with feet and hands bound. These represent control over playfulness and desire-driven behaviour. Instead of leaving ema or o-mikuji visitors make a wish by placing one of their (bad) desires into a kukurizaru and leaving it with Koshin-san. Koshin-san takes away the desire and grants the wish.
There are also wooden carvings of the “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” monkeys. Japanese folk beliefs regard monkeys as kind spirits that protect people and their homes against evil spirits.
Kiyumizu Dera is one of the main tourist attractions, but by the time we reached it, after meandering slowly from temple to temple, particularly slowly in the streets approaching the temple, thronging with excited people, I had such blinding pain in my head, neck and shoulders that it was all I could do to make it to the nearest taxi rank and retreat to our inn.
Next time we visit Kyoto, we shall go back for a proper visit.
For Pete, with love in my heart…