To unwind from one pilgrimage (Kumamo Kodo), I embark on another: Tokyo’s 33-Kannon pilgrimage. Each has a shrine dedicated to Kannon, Bodhisattva of compassion, and the pilgrimage dates from the late 17th century. Walking across big chunks of Tokyo, I have visited 5, found another 5 closed, and failed to find or given up on a few. I may be able to add two or three more which are near St Alban’s Church. Not bad for a three-day visit. Two – in each case the first in the morning – have been a great experience, both for prayer and wandering through the graveyards, and many others, even the closed ones, have beautiful gardens. I am walking more slowly (especially when trying to navigate metro stations or streets crowded with schoolboys on lunch break), and when it gets dark, I go back to the hotel, write my blog, and read up on the next day’s route.
Yesterday I finished up at one temple which is not one of the Kannon 33. Fukagawa Fudō-dō, on the other side of the river, has, according to the Lonely Planet guide, an upper floor devoted to the 88 temples of yet another route. Unfortunately it did not say that this floor is open only to 4 pm, and I arrived at 4:15. However, I stayed for the Fire Ceremony at 5. It was much noisier than the one in the small building at Koyasan, and there was less emphasis on the fire, which had been built in advance, and more drumming. Most of the audience sat in tiers of chairs until invited to come forward, at which point a student-monk (I assume, since he had plenty of hair) took from each in turn whatever we were carrying, presented it to the fire, and returned it. So my iPad, Kindle and phone received a Buddhist blessing.