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Miyajima Walks – part 2

For a small island, there is much to see on Miyajima and unfortunately I was barely able to scratch the surface. As with many places in Japan, one leaves knowing there is still much to see on future visits. For this final post on Miyajima, I would like to focus on two of the island’s many interesting sites, namely the Reikado Hall and the Daisho-in Temple.

Kieza-no Reikado Hall is home to an eternal flame that has burned continuously since the lighting of the holy fire in the year 806 by Kobo Daishi, the founder of the Shingon sect. It is said that Kobo Daishi, during his visit to Miyajima, performed “Gumonji” for 100 days – a meditative practice involving a fire ceremony. Since that time, the flame has continued burning and in 1964 was used as the pilot light for the Peace Flame of Hiroshima’s Peace Park. Such a link could not have been foreseen when the flame was first lit, yet one hopes that one day the Peace Flame will be extinguished to mark the destruction of all nuclear weapons.

Reikado Hall (pic 1) is a relatively small building near the summit of Mount Misen, where the eternal flame is an irresistible attraction despite the smoke filled interior not being the most pleasant of environments. Pics 2 and 3 give some idea of the smoke-filled interior and show a large pot of water being heated above the flame. It is believed that drinking the heated water has curative power and perhaps the couple in pic 3 will enjoy the benefits. The Hall is also renowned as a “lover’s sanctuary” with the flame being akin to the eternal fire of love. There is a legend that those dedicating votive tablets (pic 4) at least three times will be granted their wish.

At the base of Mount Misen, one finds Daisho-in, an impressive complex and one of the most important temples of Shingon Buddhism. Unfortunately my visit was too short to properly view and appreciate the variety of buildings and artifacts within the complex, thereby limiting my ability to share. However, I enjoyed my all too brief visit and as I hope the selected images will show, I left Daisho-in with a feeling of light-heartedness.

The temple grounds are sloping, even a tad hilly, yet they manage to evoke a feeling of relaxation. Kannon-do Hall, seen in the background of pic 6 is probably the dominant building and pic 6 is also a good example of how buildings, Buddhist deities and gardens are integrated within an inviting environment.

A recurring theme around Daisho-in and indeed elsewhere on Miyajima is the use of multiple statues, such as the Rakan statues (pics 7 and 8) lining the steps to the temple.   Altogether, there are 500 statues, each with a different facial expression. However, I couldn’t help but be taken by the personality added by crowning each with woolen beanies, which reminded me of football team colours.

Other multiples were found in the form of the 1000 Fudo images (pic 9) donated by worshippers to commemorate the succession of the current (77th) head priest and the seven happy deities in their lovely garden setting at pics 11 and 12.

In conclusion I would like to comment briefly on pics 10 and 13, which depict representations of Jizo – one of the most beloved of Japanese divinities. Although Jizo have many guises, they are invariably presented as friendly, comforting figures as in pic 10, or even as cute manifestations in more contemporary form as in pic 13.

As I said in the introduction, Miyajima has much to offer for such a small island and I hope this and the two preceding posts has provided a glimpse of the island’s significance.

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)