Kawasaki Daishi (Heikenji Temple)
I had traveled to Kawasaki, about 30 minutes by train from Tokyo, to attend the Kanamara Festival, but ended up first in the Kawasaki Daishi (Heikenji Temple), instead of the Kanamara Shrine. Clearly, I am quite ignorant and can’t tell the difference between a Buddhist temple and a Shinto shrine – fail!
On the way to the temple, just outside the main gate, you will find a colorful street with stores selling food, snacks, souvenirs, trinkets, daruma dolls, etc.
Kawasaki Daishi is the center of worship for devoted followers and spreading the teachings of the Buddhist priest Kukai (774-835), also well known by his posthumous name, Kobo Daishi, which means “the great master who spread the Buddhist teachings”. During the Heian era, Kobo Daishi introduced Shingon Buddhism to Japan, and is still considered the founder of these teachings in Japan.
The Dai-Sanmon (Main Gate) gate was built in November 1977 to commemorate the 850th anniversary of the founding of the Kawasaki Daishi. On the gate rest images of Yakushi Nyorai (The Medicine Master Buddha) and the Four Heavenly Kings.
The Statue of Prayer and Peace was erected to commemorate the 1,150th anniversary of Kobo Daishi’s death and with the Displaying of the Image Festival, held on October 7, 1984.
Hakkaku Gojunoto (Octagonal Five-Storied Pagoda, Restoration Pagoda) was completed in the same year (1984). This five-storied pagoda is built in a simple and solemn octagon in compliance with the form of the Shingon School. An octagon is a building form which is akin to the circle, symbolizing broad-mindedness and wholeness. There is also an analogy with devotion to Buddhism through Shakamuni’s teaching of the “Eight Right Ways”.
The Dai-Hondo main hall was destroyed by fire during the war in April 1945 and rebuilt in May 1958. Constructed of steel and concrete, it is a splendid cathedral of the Showa period with an architectural style of the Heian period.
In the temple grounds, you will also find the Crane Pond and the Prayer Hall for Safe Driving (really!?).