Sunday, July 9, 2017

A Visit to Old Edo

--Susan, every other Sunday.

Yesterday I took a research trip to Kawagoe, a town about 90 minutes from central Tokyo that contains a number of well-preserved historical buildings from the Edo period (1603-1868), along with many shrines and temples established centuries earlier.

An Edo-era shop along the preserved shopping street in Kawagoe. The vending machine is new...

Among the most important Buddhist temples in Kawagoe is Kita-in. Originally established in the 9th century, the temple burned in 1202, was rebuilt in 1296, and was patronized by several of the Tokugawa shoguns during the 17th century.

The pagoda at Kita-in

The temple is also home to the Gohyaku Rakan (500 Rakan), a collection of 540 statues of Buddha's disciples. The three-foot statues were carved between 1782 and 1825, and no two of them are alike in either their poses or their facial features.

A portion of the 540 Rakan.

Some seem less than pleased to be there.

Apparently, not all of Buddha's disciples were jolly fellows.

Others reminded me of storytellers.

Have you heard the joke about the statues? It rocks.

And quite a few of them made me laugh.

"I'll make this one pick his nose, and see if anyone notices."

According to legend, if you visit the 500 rakan in the dark of midnight, and feel each statue, you will find one that feels warm (as if alive) to the touch. If you mark its location and return the following morning, you will apparently discover that the statue is the one that looks the most like you.

He has a fish. 

Regrettably, the statues are now surrounded by a wall, making the legend impossible to verify (or disprove...).

A second story about the statues involves the twelve that show disciples holding or watching over the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac.

Disciple-Facing Dog.

If you find the one that bears your sign, and rub his head, he will apparently bring you luck.

I found the boar--my zodiac sign, and my son's as well--though personally I think it looks more like a heffalump.

Rumor has it, this animal is a boar.

Hopefully that won't impact my fortune.


  1. Susan, if those Japanese Rakan have any any sense, they will bless you. They are fortunate to have you making everyone want to visit them.

  2. Amazing, Susan, thanks! I'd never heard of these. (One of only three things I'd never heard of. Down to two, now...)

  3. How close can you get to them Susan ...or do you have a very good camera as the images are so clear. And I'm giving the nose picker the benefit of the doubt. I think he's wiping away a tear of laughter.. probably at evka'S comment.

  4. As represented by this post, Susan, even if your sign is the boar, you're never its homonym.