O-eshiki at Ikegami Honmon-ji (Ikegami Honmon-ji Temple), a Great Occasion at Summer Night
In the brisk fall night breeze, my friend and I meet at Tokyo’s Ikegami by appointment and we are about to visit the Ikegami Honmon-ji O-eshiki, an annual event held between October 11 and October 13.
What is an O-eshiki?
An O-eshiki is a Buddhist service commemorating the anniversary of the death of Saint Nichiren (Nichiren Shonin), the founder of the Buddhist Nichiren Shu (literally “Sun Lotus Sect”). With its long-standing tradition, the O-eshiki date back 730 years. Although such ritual is conducted at temples throughout Japan between October 11 and October 13, it is at its largest and most impressive at Ikegami Honmon-ji, where Saint Nichiren passed away.
Great Oeshiki at Ikegami Honmon-ji
Ikegami Honmon-ji is 10 minutes’ walk from Ikegami Station on the Tokyu Ikegami Line. With over 30,000 people flocking to attend the festival each year, passengers getting out of the station are often greeted with a sea of faces. The station, which used to be quiet, is temporarily established with several additional exits, where many policemen are relieving traffic congestion.
Over the three days from October 11 to October 13, followers gather from near and far to offer up prayers. We get here on October 12, when the Mando (literally “ten thousand lanterns”) Kuyo Parade, the highlight of the festival, is taking place.
Mando Kuyo Parade
The Parade is voluntarily held by the processions from the temples across Japan. Some 3,000 disciples carrying Mando lanterns adorned with cherry blossoms march towards Honmon-ji. With participants chanting to the rhythm of drums, the event is a spectacular sight.
Leading each procession is a show of Matoi, a pole with long thin decorations, which, said to originate from the banners held by the fireman in the Edo period, is now being waved vigorously.
The trains of people seem to stretch endlessly.
They are singing while dancing, and the hustle and bustle of the Parade continues from a little past 5 pm to late night.
Besides, there is an illuminated lifelike portrait of Saint Nichiren and displayed on a float escorted by a procession.
Resembling a giant cherry tree, a Manto has a 5 m high model of a 5-storied pagoda that is brightly lit and decorated with white and pink cherry blossoms made from Washi paper, which drape down from the top of pagoda that is marked with the Japanese name (Namu Myoho Renge Kyo) of Lotus Sutra.
Legend has it that when Saint Nichiren passed away in October, many cherry trees in the vicinity mysteriously came into bloom, and this gives grounds for the cherry tree shape of the Manto.
Pray at Honmon-ji
The procession slows down when it is 150 m away from Honmon-ji.
Jostled by the throng, I finally behold the main gate of the temple.
My camera almost loses my grip due to the crowdedness.
Surprisingly, there is a stepped slope ahead after I go through the gate. The slope with its 96 steps leading to the main hall is called Shikyonanji-zaka, probably a name deriving from Lotus Sutra.
Pious visitors tend to ascend the steps without a rest.
At length, I work my way into the temple!
The interior is packed but not noisy; a solemn atmosphere pervade the temple.
With deep and solemn bells echoing in the air, people are praying piously.
Enjoying Delicacies at the Food Stands on the Return Trip♪
On my return from the temple, I find too many food stands lining the street and mainly serving up a variety of treats.
I’m amazed at the number of the stands, which totals 100, at the very least!
If you come to Tokyo and want to gain some experience of Shitamachi’ customs, be sure to visit the O-eshiki held at Ikegami Honmon-ji between October 11 and October 13!
Basic information on the O-Eshiki at Ikegami Honmon-ji
O-Eshiki at Ikegami Honmon-ji
- Ikegami Honmon-ji, the administrative headquarters of the Nichiren Shu
- 1-1-1, Ikegami, Ota, Tokyo [Map]
- October 11, 2017 (Wednesday) to October 13, 2017 (Friday)
- 10-mintute walk from Ikegami Station on the Tokyu Ikegami Line
- Official website of Ikegami Honmon-ji
- Ikegami Honmonji Temple (JPN)( External link )