On one of my last days, my co-worker Chelsea invited me to visit a temple with her. It was also one of her last days, and she’d been wanting to visit this temple for some time. Chelsea had been visiting many temples during her stay in Kyoto (more that the average person when visiting Kyoto 😉 ) to get stamps in her ‘temple passport’. The problem was: the temple was closed every time she tried to visit. Thus, we tried again. The temple was supposedly located on the Kiyomizu-dera slope, which has a maze of narrow side streets to make it just a bit more complicated. Luckily for us, Kiyomizu-dera was just a stone’s throw away from the guesthouse we worked at, so we could easily go there.
On our way, we passed a taiyaki shop. My friend had never had this delicious snack, so we stopped for a bite and man, did she love it! They had several more fillings we wanted to try, so we decided to stop there again on our way back. ^_^ (Unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture, but for those who are wondering what taiyaki is.. It’s a fishcake! Hehe, no it’s a little cake in the form of a fish, usually filled with red bean paste or custard cream. I’ve seen other variants as well, such as sweet potato or chocolate.)
We searched and searched the temple Chelsea was looking for, but couldn’t find it. She had the address too, so -since she didn’t speak Japanese, except for arigatou gozaimasu (of which she just couldn’t get the accent right 😛 )- I asked a shopkeeper for directions. After finding the right street in the maze that is the Kiyomizu-dera slope, we arrived at the closed doors of the temple. No luck once again!
Since there’s more than one temple in Kyoto, we found another one which was fascinating as well. We looked around and found dozens of what looked like people with their limbs tied together. It turned out they were actually monkeys (we were close ;)), called Kukurizaru (hanging monkeys):
Yasaka Koshindo Temple
Koshin-san (Shomen kongo, the blue warrior, one of the buddhist guardians) likes good people. Therefore, divine favor is given to them. But he abhors bad people. Therefore, punishment is given to them. His wish is that everybody will become a good person. That is why he has an angry face so that humans will not have a wicked heart. He aids those who try with all their might to be a good person.
Kukurizaru (the hanging monkey)
The Kukurizaru is a monkey which has its hands and feet tied together and cannot move. It is said that the monkey is an animal very like man, but after all it is an animal that simply acts upon its will or desire. If you go to a zoo, you can see that a monkey just plays about as it likes. This figure is compared to the desire of man, and in order that “desire” can not come out it is tied by Koshin.
In order to get one of your wishes granted by the monkey, you have to get rid of one of your desires.
When you put in the effort to fulfill your wish, your desire tries to come out and prevent it from coming true. So you must put your desire in the monkey and Koshin will help you control it. Therefore, if your desire tries to come out and you do a bad thing, or you lose the will to keep up your effort as though the monkey in you is playing about, you should remember Koshin’s angry face. You should warn yourself that “You will be punished” and you should control your desire like a hanging monkey. If you do a good thing, the hanging monkey will help you as a servant of Koshin. If you feel a desire coming on, you should put your hands together, pray to Koshin, and recite the Buddhist sutra:
“ON DEIBA YAKISHA BANTA BANTA KAKAKAKA SOWAKA”
If your monkey gets dirty or old, you should replace it with a new one. And, if you don’t need it anymore, please send it back to Koshindo.
(information sign at Yasaka Koshindo Temple)
When we were looking at the information and checking the temple’s shop, Chelsea realized THIS was the temple she was looking for, and thus Chelsea got her stamp in her temple passport. 😀
After this, we wandered around the slope some more, because the weather was great and we didn’t need to go back yet. There’s lots of cool stuff to see in the streets of Kiyomizu-dera slope, like a pagoda, another temple with an ox statue, the little traditional streets, buddha on a pig (?) and cats staring at cats…