Yesterday I had the opportunity to spend the day with my friend Aya and her family. They were so kind and generous, and brought me along with them to visit temples and participate in a local festival over the course of the afternoon and evening. It was amazing!
We started the afternoon at Jokenji, a temple of Nichiren Buddhism where Aya's brother works as a priest. Above is the central altar, below the beautiful paintings adorning the light above the altar.
Above is the shrine to Suwa daimyojin, a manifestation of Buddha that is combined with Shinto practice. Aya had the priests perform a yakuyokei (厄除け） for us, it was a ritual that included chanting the name of the Lotus Sutra over small amulets that had our names inscribed on them. The priests included each of our names in the chant while we sat in front of the above altar. We then moved to the other altar, where five priests surrounded us and chanted, touching a copy of the sutra to our heads and shoulders, sparking a piece of flint, and clapping together beads on a small board. The entire ritual was meant to drive out evil spirits, and provide us with health and energy. We also took home the amulets with our names inscribed on them, mine is now hanging in my apartment, where hopefully it will provide me with good energy in the coming year.
Aya's two small children and her husband also participated in the ceremony, above is her son playing around near the altar.
After the ritual, we spent some time hanging around the temple. There were kids games, and food stalls, and people selling plants and other small household items.
The kiddos played fishing games, and took some goldfish home.
In the early evening, we took leave from Jokenji, and went to Aya's family temple, which is attached to her parent's home and run by her father. The two photos below show their temple, which is also dedicated to Nichiren.
We had a lovely time visiting and relaxing at their home, and enjoying sushi delivery for dinner. After our meal, we went back to Jokenji for the evening festivities. There was a procession through the streets surrounding the temple with large floats that had paper flowers flowing from the top. Images of Nichiren adorned some of the floats, text adorned others. Practitioners and families paraded together with the floats and chanted various incantations, chatting and having a great time together.
The processions ended at the temple, where the priests blessed the participants. Various people danced, chanted, and played the drums, chasing away the negative spirits. At the end of the activities, participants gathered in an air conditioned room of the temple, where people were drinking beer and soda, and eating curry, continuing the days celebrations.
Me and Aya at the end of a fantastic day!