With the end of the year approaching quickly, you will find that people in Japan are busy preparing for the New year celebrations. Transportation such as the Bullet train and buses are full of people returning to their hometowns, shopping malls are swarmed with people shopping for New Years ‘Osechi‘ lunch and in general more people out and about on holiday.
Sometimes it can get a bit hectic.
After a busy year wouldn’t you prefer to get away from the busy crowds and relax?
If so, we recommend visiting a temple or shrine near you! A peaceful and tranquil place where you can reflect on events over the past year and wish for luck for the next. And at the same time absorb in some Japanese culture.
In this post, one of our teachers on our ALT team will introduce an interesting temple that he recently visited in the Kansai area!
Suzumura Temple: The Bell Cricket Temple
A station away from the world famous Arashiyama lies a hidden gem which grants you all of your wishes: Not a tangible item, but a temple named Suzumushi Dera.
There are a few temples that are in walking distance, but this one is especially “special”. Due to the healing and power, you can receive when visiting. The deity who can do this is named Kofuku Jizo, also known as The Happy Jizo Bodhisattva.
Jizo is said to grant any wish you desire, as long as you provide your name and address of where you currently reside. This is a very important part of getting your wish granted because it is often said that Kofuku Jizo will pay you a visit to your home.
He is said to be wearing red, and straw sandals. Very similar to what westerners imagine the Christmas idol. However, Jizo works even harder, and longer hours at that: All year round.
The Entrance of the Temple
Upon arrival at the temple, you will first find yourself in front of a set of stairs. Walking up the steep stone path, you will soon be met by Jizo even before entering the temple. Yet, it is advised that you take a step inside to get a little familiar with the place.
To enter the main building for the temple, the admission fee is 500 yen. To view only the garden, 300 yen is required. There is also a service in which you will be served Japanese tea and sweets. And receive a half an hour lesson from a monk who talks about the wonders of Kofuku Jizo and Suzumushi Dera. (Currently, this service is only done in Japanese).
The Beauty of Suzumushi Temple
Stepping outside the main area, you will soon realize the magic of this place. Many people often who visit Suzumushi dera can not only ask for a lover, or a birth of a child, fortune in business. They can also enjoy the beauty of nature that surrounds it.
The Bamboo groves and trees in the garden are best viewed in the Spring or Autumn seasons. However, you can enjoy the view of Kyoto City from the garden within the temple with the sounds of bell crickets which are native to the area.
In this way, Suzumushi Dera had received its name: “Suzumushi” meaning bell cricket and “Dera” meaning temple. Literally, “Bell Cricket Temple”. Even in the winter, these bell crickets are said to sing their pleasant songs as a famous monk of this temple trained them to do so. It is deemed the only place in Japanese where visitors can hear the sounds of crickets all year round.
Bell crickets, however, are said to have an average lifespan of about 110 days. And only half of that time they are able to chirp. The crickets are a reminder that life is short, so sing your heart out (until you die).
Suzumushi Temple Charms
The temple also provides special omamori, or Japanese charms which also are said to have good luck. These are sold at 300 yen. Written on the omamori is “Kofuku Omamori”, “Kofuku” meaning “Happiness” in English, and “Omamori” meaning charm or talisman. If you carry this pocket sized talisman which is blessed with the spirit of Jizo, it will bring you happiness and fortune. And at the same time, protecting you from any bad luck. Nice deity Jizo will keep you safe.
Suzumushi Dera has become a special place for visitors, especially couples, and dreamers seeking happiness, and Jizo’s help. Not to mention people asking for good luck for the New Year.
While many claim that Jizo is a reliable deity and effective at granting wishes, it requires one or two, to not forget to visit this temple again to thank Kofuku Jizo and to pay him respects, once their wish is granted. He’d be happy to see that you are fine, healthy, and happy.
If you are in the Kansai Area during the winter break, why not drop by!
Access: 15 minute walk from Matsuo-Taisha Station Hankyu Railway.
This is my recommended route as you can walk through the homes and get a feel of Kyoto styled homes away from the city.
30 minute walk or 12 minute bus ride from Arashiyama Station.
40 minute bus ride from JR Kyoto Station.
Hours: 9am – 5pm
Very busy on weekends and national holidays.
Go to the temple around 3 pm to avoid big crowds on a weekday.