If  you look out from our front doorstep towards the nearby park then you’ll see an impressive spire bursting out through from the treetops and reaching to the sky. This is the top tier of the five storey Honmonj Temple Pagoda and this weekend we finally found time to walk up through the park and surrounding graveyard pay it a closer visit…

The Pagoda is just part of a much bigger collection of buildings that make up Honmonji Temple and this Sunday the whole place was buzzing with worshipers, dog walkers and the occasional tourist despite the overcast weather. The temple is very much still functioning and we paid our respects alongside the other visitors.

Outside the temple we washed our hands and wafted the scent from burning incense over our bodies to purify ourselves…

 

Inside the temple, a monk was incanting Buddhist sutras as people passed in and out,  stopping to say a prayer. The sound of his chanting and of a bell ringing filled my head as we made a small donation, closed our eyes and bowed our heads. A peaceful moment.

The temple was founded all the way back in 1282 and some of the oldest parts of the site – such as a statue of it’s founder Nichiren Shōnin – date back to around this time. The Pagoda was built in 1608 and is the oldest in Tokyo. Who knows how many earthquakes it must have withstood in that time?

The main temple was destroyed by bombs in 1945 and had to be completely rebuilt. Even so, it still has an ancient, timeless quality to it.  There is a tradition within Japanese Buddhism anyway to periodically rebuild its wooden temples, an interesting echo of its belief in reincarnation. After all, is it the structure itself that contains meaning or something more fundamental underneath?

 


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