One day after at the Yoga Plus studio in Gotanda, Sachiko Inomata offered to take me to lunch and off we went by cab to an Italian restaurant in nearby Meguro. Italian food is very popular in Japan and Sachiko said that the pizza was especially great here. She was right; we enjoyed light, fluffy pizza topped with the freshest ingredients made in a brick oven before our eyes.
Sachiko suggested we make a quick visit to see a temple in this quiet neighborhood. We walked for about a mile and came upon the Ryusenji Temple (Meguro Fudon). I’ve seen at least eight temples or shrines during my visits to Japan and marvel at the fact that no two are exactly alike. I later found out that the temple’s grounds were designated in 808 a.d. by a Buddhist missionary, “Jikaku Daishi Ennin” and since then, “divine water” has been flowing from this spot for over 1200 years. A statue of Fudo (God of Fire) is placed in a fountain of water, which is said to have healing properties. It is customary to splash water on Fudo before moving forward.
Ryusenji Temple is nestled deep within a “village-like” neighborhood in the middle of bustling Tokyo. The rambling temple grounds have a rustic naturalness with a liberal mix of fountains; ornamental, mythical and sacred statues including a great bronze Buddha behind the temple that Sachiko said had a “Japanese” face. After cleansing our hands, mouths and taking off our shoes, we were able to visit the lavishly impressive ornamental altar inside the temple, but no pictures were allowed. The best I could do was to zoom in and capture an image from the doors of the entryway. I was also instructed on the process of lighting a bundle of incense to place in a bronze urn outside as an offering in prayer. It was nice to have someone highlight traditional rituals that are a mystery to a westerner like me.
Meguro Fudon seemed especially intimate since there were very few people there. In fact, I had no idea that this compound was within a couple of miles walking distance from where I’m staying in Gotanda. Sachiko told me that sometimes she comes to the temple at sunrise when the city is quiet and the air is fresh.