There’s nothing like a good, old-fashioned fire ceremony to get your year off to a blazing start! Flaming prayer sticks, drums being pounded by ultra-buff young priests, the chance to get your wallet blessed – what’s not to like? The fire ceremony at the Fukugawa Fudo temple in Monzen Nakacho did not disappoint!
If your experience with Buddhism is confined to the contemplative practices of Zen, get ready for the holy roller version! The ceremonies at this branch of the Narita Fudo sect are anything but silent and serene – giant taiko drums are beat throughout the ceremony with athletic prowess, and prayer sticks are burned in a giant bonfire right in front of the altar.
But the totally interesting stuff didn’t end there – after seeing the impressive pyrotechnics, we went inside the giant modern cube of an annex, entirely covered by the Fudo sutra written out in giant black and gold Sanskrit characters.
We wended our way through the Hall of 10,000 Crystal Fudo Figures (a twisting corridor lined floor to ceiling with miniatures of the Fire God), ventured up the stairs to a black-light-bathed room filled with 108 glow-in-the-dark paintings of various other gods, then went outside to a fountain surrounded by Shenzen dragons, where you can float special wish amulets, and if they dissolve completely, the dragons will grant your wish.
The Fukugawa Fudo temple in Monzen Nakacho actually has five fire ceremonies a day (every day of the year) but I went on New Year’s day because in addition to the usual attractions, the temple is surrounded by booths selling festive snacks & noshes.
On New Year’s Eve, in addition to the regular ceremonies during the day (9:00, 11:00, 1:00, 13:00, 15:00), extra fire ceremonies are added around the clock (starting at midnight) at 0:00, 1:30, 3:00, and 8:00 a.m., as well as one at the end of the day, at 19:00 p.m. The trains run all night on New Year’s Eve, so it’s easy to make this one of your stops on the New Year’s shrine & temple pilgrimage!
If you’d like to go to a fire ceremony the next time you’re in Tokyo, directions about how to do it are on my website, The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had.
And just for fun, here are the eleven strangest shrines in Tokyo, with all the inside scoop on the resident gods’ superpowers
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Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Japan, produces the monthly e-magazine Japanagram, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had