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Lake Tama: Yamaguchi Kannon

Yesterday, we decided to veer off our usual bicycle heatmaps in Kanagawa and head up to Lake Tama (多摩湖 Tamako) located at the prefectural border to Saitama. Tamako and Sayamako are two artificial lakes that serve as freshwater reservoirs for Tokyo and environs. They are also popular resorts, not only for cyclists but also for joggers and hikers who can explore the dams and bridges and circle Tamako on a dedicated cycle/jogging path. Being reservoirs, the lakes and its surrounding forests are strictly off-limits and protected by fences.

Apologies in advance: all photos below were taken with an iPhone 6 camera.


Lake Tama with Seibu Prince Dome, the home stadium of national baseball league club Seibu Lions, visible in the backdrop.

Just across the border in Tokorozawa, Saitama, lies a curious Buddhist temple named Yamaguchi Kannon. Yamaguchi seems to be the local placename as both dams are also referred to as "Yamaguchi Reservoir". We noticed the temple complex when we passed the beautiful pagoda located above the main temple complex.


Okunoin Gojūnotō (奥之院五重塔)

Yamaguchi Kannon (山口観音), also known as Konjōin (金乗院), is a Shingon temple of the Toyoyama School. Its full name (including mountain and temple name) is Goanzan Konjōin Hōkōji (吾庵山金乗院放光寺). From its earliest days, Konjōin was a place of Kannon worship, enshrining Senju Kannon (千手觀音), the 1000-armed Kannon. Senju Kannon is one of the Roku Kannon (六觀音 Six Kannon), the six basic forms of Kannon that protect people in each of the six realms of karmic rebirth. The hexagonal shape of the vermillion pagoda represents that very concept. Senju Kannon is one of the most popular deities in Japan and said to cure eye problems and blindness.




Above: the entrance and the exit of the hall of votive offerings.

The temple was founded in the Kōnin era (810-824 C.E.) and enshrines two statues: 'Urakannon' (裏観音), a cultural property of Tokorozawa City, and 'Omotekannon' (表観音), a hidden statue that is shown to the public every 33 years. The last time it was on display was between 29 April and 1 May 2017 on the occasion of the 1200th anniversary of the temple's foundation.









Above: Jizō statues are guardians of travellers and children. They protect the souls of unborn, stillborn, aborted, and miscarried children. Pregnant women and mothers pray to them for the safety of their children. Jizō, one of the four principal bodhisattvas, also brings closure to mothers who have miscarried.













Statue of Kōbō-Daishi (弘法大師), ubiquitous at Japanese temples.


Hotei (布袋), the god of fortune, one of the Seven Gods of Luck.







According to legend, Nitta Yoshisada (新田義貞, 1301-1338) prayed at Konjōin before he set out to Kamakura to defeat the Hōjō and end the Kamakura shogunate in 1333. The white horse displayed here survived the battle and spent the rest of its life in the tranquillity of the temple.









Access: a 5-minute walk from Seibu-Kyūjō-mae Station (Seibu Railways).
Address: 2203 Kamiyamaguchi, Tokorozawa, Saitama 359-1153; phone: +81-42-2998-9253.
Admission: free.


Map:


Comments

senju-kannon.jpg

The statue of Senju Kannon at Konjōin.

Here is some more information on the founding of the temple:

Founded by Kōbō-daishi, Konjōin Temple is a temple of the Shingon sect. In ancient times, when Kōbō-daishi passed through this area, he noticed a strange light twinkling on the mountain. After wading through bushes, he found a Kannon enshrined in a small shrine. On that night, he knew that local people were suffering from a plague rampant in this area.

Seeing it, Daishi started a senza-goma ritual service the following day and used the water from the pond on the right side at the back of the main hall as Akamizu. Akamizu means water offered in front of Buddha.

It is said that when local people drank the water, the sick recovered from their illness instantly. Today, all the water used in the precincts is drawn from this pond. The present main hall was rebuilt between 1751 and 1763. Enshrined at the left side of the Honzon is Bishamonten and at the right side Fudo, Sho Kannon, 25 bodhisattvas, Prince Shotoku, and many other Buddha statues.

Ema (votive horse tablets), the ink painting of the dragon depicted on the whole ceiling, Senju Kannon, etc. in the temple are well known, and precious cultural properties can be viewed.
Source: Konjo-in Temple (Yamaguchi Kannon)
 

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