Don’t miss rare Heikenji Temple performance in Japan
Heikenji Temple, more popularly known as Kawasaki Daishi in Kawasaki City, Kanagawa Prefecture, worships the Buddhist priest Kukai (774-835) who was born in Shikoku and was posthumously given the honorary name Kobo Daishi.
After coming back from China where he studied Buddhism, Kukai introduced the Shingon sect of esoteric Buddhism to Japan.
Kawasaki Daishi is one of Japan’s biggest temples for the Shingon sect. It is known for attracting huge numbers of people for New Year’s Day, but the temple is flooded with visitors throughout the year.
It is a prayer temple where they hold the rite of “Goma.” The Goma is a solemn religious fire rite to burn all roots of carnal desire supported by an esoteric Buddhism doctrine.
In the ascetic practices of Goma, the officiating priest, who has performed the self-purification rites for both his mind and body, burns the Goma wood in the center of the fireplace of the Goma platform, which is in front of the principal Holy Image of Kobo Daishi.
Prayers are also offered for those who have reached their “Yaku Doshi” ages — considered climactic periods in a person’s life. The prayers include an annulling of all calamities and prayers for the safety and well being of the members and their families. For men, the Yaku Doshi ages are 25 and 42. For women, the ages are 19 and 33. And both men and women celebrate at 60. These ages are considered the turning points in one’s life, but also an age when one is susceptible to misfortune.
Until May 30, Kawasaki Daishi is holding the Gokaicho festival, which only comes once every 10 years. During this period, they will exhibit the image of Kukai, founder of the Buddhism sect.
On May 27, the temple will hold Takigi-Noh by the members of a leading Noh school of Kanze.
Takigi-Noh is “firelight Noh” or “torchlight Noh” played outside to create a mysterious world within the temple grounds. Noh is a dance and drama that started in the 14th century that is based on folk myths and religion. The movements in a Noh drama are stylized and controlled, and the main actor usually wears a mask called a Nohmen.