2009/03/22

Satake-ji

A bit more fall color and history from our last trip to Hitachi-Ohta City...

There is a beautiful old temple not far from Seizan-so called "Satake-ji" or Satakedera. "Ji" and "dera" both mean "temple" and to add to the confusion, they are written with the same kanji character. I've seen Satake-ji written both ways on English websites, so I'm not sure which is correct, but I'll stick with ji.

Anyway, as I wrote of it in 2006, it "is listed as a National Important Cultural Property. In 1177, a local warlord, Satake, donated the land and made the temple the official place for his warriors to pray. The temple burned down in 1543 and took fifteen years to rebuild. That is still the temple building one sees today. In 1590 it was Satake Yoshinobu who unified Hitachi - what is now called Ibaraki Prefecture. No doubt a descendant of the Satake who patronized this temple."

Last time, my camera was improperly set up and all the pictures were out of focus. On this visit I took more pictures and of course, I have a newer camera.



There is a large old ginko tree there which carpets the grounds with golden leaves. Unfortunately, it is a female tree and bears fruit which fall to the ground. For the unwary, the fruit, which has a very unpleasant odor, sticks to the bottom of shoes. So after you visit the temple and get into your car to leave you may soon wonder "what is that awful smell"? Don't look accusingly at the person next to you, just get out and clean off your shoes. ;^)


Satake-ji is the 22nd site on the "Bando Pilgrimage" started by the monk Tokudo in 718, which includes 33 religious sites in the Kanto area dedicated to the Bosatsu Kannon.


The papers that are glued to the temple and gate, which have names written on them, were left by past pilgrims to show that they had visited the site as they traveled along the Bando Pilgrimage. The practice of gluing these papers is no longer allowed, but some people still do follow this pilgrimage which starts in Tokyo and takes them all over the Kanto region.

A statue of Kannon Bosatsu, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, holding a lotus flower and curled lotus leaf.


I like the thatched roof of this temple.


Behind the temple are some old wooden ladders.
A row of statues of Jizo Bosatsu, the Bodhisattva guardian of children, wearing red bibs inscribed with names and prayers.

Though the gate has been rebuilt in the 20th century, the guardian statues are the originals.


They are called "Nio" or kindly kings. A common feature of temple gates throughout the Buddhist world, they are named Kongo (or Ungyo) whose mouth is closed to say "Un" and Misshaku (or Ahgyo) whose mouth his open saying "Ah". They were originally derived from Hindu Divas who became incorporated into Buddhism as protectors against evil.

The garden of the minister's residence is in poor condition, but there is a beautiful red momiji (Japanese maple tree) by the wall surrounding it.

FYI - Satake-ji is just a seven minute taxi ride or 30 minute walk from JR (Japan Rail) Hitachi-Ohta Station.

12 comments:

Olivia said...

I wonder how old the pilgrim's prayer papers are...

And I think the Bodhisattva of Compassion is suitably elegant, one of the prettiest I've seen yet.

The Moody Minstrel said...

What's interesting is that the gender of Kanon Bosatsu (after whom Canon corporation is named) changes depending on which temple you visit. Most of the time she's female, but in some temples he's male. The Odaka Kannon, an "outdoor temple" established in my neighborhood by locals a couple of decades ago, is definitely female.

I'm probably wrong, but I would think that "Satake-dera" is right simply because "Satake" is a purely Japanese name using "kun" (assigned Japanese) readings of the characters, and "dera" is also a "kun" reading. Kiyomizudera is a good example of this pattern. Most of the time a "ji" reading is paired with a name using the "ON" (japonified Chinese) readings of the characters, such as Nanzenji or Ryoanji.

Since the Japanese language, or ANY language for that matter, is rarely very logical, I wouldn't be surprised if I turned out to be mistaken.

Pandabonium said...

Olivia - The senjya-fuda (name sticker) tradition became popular during the Edo Period (1603-1867). Some of those on the main temple could be that old, but the ones on the gate have to be 20th century. It was thought to bring some kind of good luck.

I liked that statue too.

Moody - Indeed, Bosatsu are actually genderless according to Buddhist teaching, but are presented as male or female anyway. In India, Kannon was portrayed as male, but that changed as the religion was adopted in China and so outside of India it is usually a female. Perhaps because many people view compassion as a feminine trait.

I didn't know that about Canon Corp. I'll have to treat my camera and printer with more respect!

Interesting thoughts on "dera" vs "ji". Thanks.

happysurfer said...

The place is so lovely and so full of history. Is it often this quiet, noone in sight? Yes, the red maple plant is awesome, sure puts a spark to the place. Thanks for sharing these beautiful pictures, PandaB.

Pandabonium said...

HappySurfer- We've been there 3 times and each time it was pretty quiet - only one or two other visitors. I tend to like this kind of "off the beaten track" historical site.

bonnie said...

Absolutely beautiful! Thank you!

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Lovely photos. What a tranquil place it seems to be. I would love a back garden like that.
w.

Bear Bear said...

Wow, I would love to visit this place!!! Awww, everytime looking at your photos make me want to visit Japan!!! ^^ I'm saving up for my Japan trip! XD

Pandabonium said...

Bonnie - glad you enjoyed them.

Wendy - Me too - with a nice swinging bench to relax on while viewing it.

Bear Bear - I hope you can visit Japan some time. Your Taiwan adventure looked fun.

Robin said...

so so so beautiful

Thanks for this sharings

Paul Nelson said...

These are some fantastic pictures, lots of culture!

Pandabonium said...

Thank you Paul. And thanks for visiting the blog.