Get Your Wallet Blessed By Fire & Drums

 

FudoFireCeremony2

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.

Goma prayer sticks feed the flames in the special hearth near the altar.

Goma prayer sticks feed the flames in the special hearth near the altar.

When the fire is good and hot, attendees are sometimes invited to bring their purses and wallets and other belongings up to the priest to be passed through the smoke for extra good luck.

When the fire is good and hot, attendees are sometimes invited to bring their purses and wallets and other belongings up to the priest to be passed through the smoke for extra good luck.

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.

Left to right: The winding corridor lined with 10,000 Fudo-sans and 108 Buddhist rosary prayer beads, the room with the glow-in-the-dark gods, and the dragon fountain where dissolving wishes come true.

Left to right: The winding corridor lined with 10,000 Fudo-sans and 108 Buddhist rosary prayer beads, the room with the glow-in-the-dark gods, and the dragon fountain where dissolving wishes come true.

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 and a map 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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