Inokashira Park 2  

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

As I noted before I ran out of steam last night, Inokashira Park is also home to a small temple – this one dedicated to the vengeful kami (spirit or god) of love, called Benzaiten. Legend has it that this goddess casts spells on young lovers to bring their romances to an untimely end. Couples venturing on to the lake in the many small rowing boats are said to be particularly at risk. However, that didn’t seem to deter the many couples paddling around together.

Whether or not you believe in the legend, there is no denying it is a beautiful spot. 22072008106 Viewed from across the lake, the brilliant scarlet woodwork stands out starkly against the lush greenery surrounding it and the gold embellishments add a touch of regal elegance to the building. I’m not sure how old it actually is, but it certainly looks as is it has stood there unchanged since the days of the Shogunate.

22072008110I thought it prudent to go and say hello to the resident spirit and ask for her blessing in the traditional way. Tokyo is packed full of shrines and temples, and people visit them as part of their normal daily routines. The first step is to wash your hands and gargle using water from the temple spring, like to one shown here. Then you can approach the altar22072008111. The big pot in the middle is an incense burner. You can waft the smoke over yourself for good health.

After that, you can climb the few steps to the front of the altar, make and offering of a few Yen by lobbing into the chest provided and say your prayer, finishing by a clap of the hands to arouse the attention of the resident kami. If you’re feeling particularly brave, you can bash the temple gong by pulling on the big rope you see hanging down. But being English, I didn’t want to make a fuss.

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