And then Sunday arrived.
At eight in the morning, we headed for Suzumushi-dera, with Holmes-san driving.
“—We’re going out quite early, huh,” I commented from the passenger seat.
“Aoi-san, you’ll be in trouble if you take Suzumushi-dera lightly.”
Holmes-san warned in a low voice.
“Is it such a popular temple?”
Akihito-san leant forward from the back seat.
“Yes, you should never go during holidays like Golden Week. You’ll be made to wait for three hours.”
“T-Three hours?” The two of us exclaimed in unison.
“You should aim to go during weekdays in the off-season. I would actually avoid Sundays in the autumn foliage season like today, but I think it can work out if we’re there first thing in the morning.”
Upon hearing his answer, Akihito-san and I asked, “T-That bad?” and looked at each other.
What’s it like being made to wait at a temple? Is it like the first shrine visit on New Year’s Day? I tilted my head to the side.
“But that just shows how effective it is, right?”
Akihito-san asked as the corners of his mouth ticked upward.
“—Well, I suppose this is a case of popularity generating even more popularity. As more people gather, the energy of a temple is increased.”
Holmes-san smoothly replied and nodded.
“Alright! I, Kajiwara Akihito, twenty-five years of age, will give it a shot!”
Akihito-san clenched his fists, but Holmes-san went “Hm?” and frowned.
“Akihito-san, you’re only twenty-five years old?”
“Yes, I am, but what of it?” Akihito-san answered, his voice tinged with curiosity.
“Since you’re called Akihito, I thought you were born in autumn.”
Come to think of it, we met Akihito-san in early July. At that time, he said he was twenty-five years old, and I thought his birthday would be on a day between that one and September or October.
“No, my birthday’s on June 30th.”
Akihito-san quickly said, causing me to turn around and exclaim, “Eh?”
“So why are you called Akihito?”
Holmes-san instantly nodded and said, “I see”, as if having understood.
“You were conceived in autumn, right?”
“So that’s how it is.”
“I initially thought it was just a simple name, but it’s actually quite a witty one.”
“Well, it’s just like my father to do that, I suppose? And it’s just like you to notice that. You must have quite a dirty mind, eh?” Akihito-san smirked, while Holmes-san returned a grin.
“Please don’t put it in such a horrible-sounding way. Couldn’t you have said, ‘gentlemanly’? But that’s completely different from you, who continually, brashly commits acts of sexual harassment, like an animal.”
“Stop saying things that make me look bad!”
“That’s my line.”
Is it bad to laugh at this?
Unsure of how to react, I could only let my face twitch as I tried hard not to laugh.
“—Oh, excuse me. It seems like we’re arriving soon.”
The car went further into Arashiyama. A sign for Matsuno’o-Taisha1 and a large vermillion torii came into view.
“It’s my first time seeing Matsuno’o-Taisha, and it’s so elegant!”
I said while clinging onto the window and gazing outside, and Holmes-san nodded.
“This is also a high-ranking shrine with a long history and lineage.”
“What kind of rank does it have?”
“Even if you ask about that… After the capital moved to Heian-kyō2, this shrine was known as ‘Fierce Spirit of the West’, in contrast to Kamo Shrine, which was known as ‘Strict God of the East’. It was also positioned with Oujouchingo Shrine3 in the West.”
“Wow, I should take some notes about this,” Akihito-san said as he whipped out his smartphone.
“By the way, what do you mean by Kamo Shrine?”
“It’s a collective term for two shrines, Kamigamo Shrine and Shimogamo Shrine.”
“Oh, I see. Er, after moving the capital to Heian-kyō, Kamo Shrine… ugh, I feel sick typing in the car.”
Akihito-san covered his mouth with a hand, his face pale.
Holmes-san and I looked wordlessly at each other, and giggled.
Before long, the car entered the parking area of Suzumushi-dera.
“Thank goodness there’s space.”
Holmes-san said in relief.
There were quite a lot of parking spaces, but more than half of them had been filled already.
We got off the car and headed to the temple on a path that really gave off the feeling of being in the mountains.
Trees with colored leaves grew along the path. As we crossed a bridge built across a brook, a stone monument with the words “Suzumushi Temple” came into view, as well as a flight of stairs.
A throng of people lined the stone stairs, and almost half of the space was filled up.
By the way, it was now 8:35 in the morning. The temple gate was still not open.
…I can’t believe that so many people were queueing up, even when it’s still so early in the morning.
“Ah, we’re lucky that it’s so empty. If it’s like this, we can probably slip into the first session.”
Holmes-san remarked in relief.
“Eh? You’re saying this place is empty?” Akihito-san openly frowned.
I agreed with his sentiments.
“Yes, when there’s an actual crowd, the queue will go past the bridge, near the parking lots,” Holmes-san replied as he looked off into the distance, causing Akihito-san and I to be at a loss for words.
“B-By the way, what do you mean by ‘first session’?”
“We’ll be listening to a talk by the abbot, who will thank us for coming here, and will give us a detailed explanation on how to use the charm to make a wish. That will take about thirty minutes, I believe.”
“If we don’t listen to it, will we be unable to buy a charm?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“Wait, so people are made to wait for hours because of a thirty minute explanation? They could do that in a booklet!” Akihito-san commented, dissatisfied.
“…If you’re being like this, your wishes won’t be granted, don’t you think? Your loud voice was probably heard by Ojizō-sama on top.”
Holmes-san mournfully looked up the stairs.
“Ah, I take that back. I’m very sorry, Ojizō-sama, and I’ll gladly listen to the explanation.”
Akihito-san hastily clasped his hands together, causing the surrounding temple-goers to chuckle.
“Hey, isn’t he the person who appeared in the TV programme that introduces Kyoto?”
“No, it can’t be, they look alike but they give off totally different vibes. The one on TV seemed to be knowledgeable and gave off a composed atmosphere.”
“Yeah, you’re right, but those two people over there are pretty cool, don’t you think?”
I could hear some whispers in the crowd.
Well, he is that very same person in the flesh… just that he was imitating Holmes-san on television, I muttered in my heart.
“Well, your true colors will soon be revealed.”
Holmes-san remarked, causing me to laugh.
That’s right. The prank program will be aired next month, which will expose Akihito-san’s true personality.
“Ah, now I wish my true colors can be revealed as soon as possible. It’s real tough trying to be like Holmes-san even off the program,” Akihito-san said with a shrug.
“That’s why I said it would be difficult later on.”
“S-Shut up, you should have told me before the recording session.”
“I never expected you to do such a cheap imitation.”
“D-Don’t call it a cheap imitation!”
Thanks to their enjoyable (?) exchange, time passed relatively quickly, and the time for the gates opening eventually arrived.
By that time, a snakelike queue had already appeared behind us, and I realized that Holmes-san wasn’t exaggerating earlier.
So Suzumushi-dera is that popular…
Feeling a little overwhelmed, I went up the stairs, and there was Ojizō-sama.
The statue wore a red apron and held some kind of staff.
In front of it was a bar that stopped people from getting too close.
“That’s the ‘Jizō of Fortune’. We’ll properly give our respects to it after listening to the talk.”
Holmes-san said as he clasped his hands towards the Ojizō-sama statue. I followed suit, and we entered the temple grounds.
“Good morning. Please come this way,” monks guided us into the temple.
We paid the entrance fee, took off our shoes and went into a large room lined with tatami mats.
The cries of bell crickets resounded in the room. There was something that looked like a fish tank at the end, and it seemed that they were raising bell crickets there.
Teacups and tea cakes were placed on long tables arranged at one side of the room.
“Come, please sit down. Please sit down close by.”
Prompted by the female guides, the three of us sat down next to each other.
Shortly thereafter, the large hall was filled with people, and the paper sliding door was closed.
“Good day, everyone. Please feel free to rest your legs.” With those words, a monk with a gentle smile on his face appeared.
He first gave us a greeting, then explained about the “Charm of Fortune” that would “grant just one wish, regardless of what it is”. The charm was rectangular in shape, a size smaller than a card, and had the words “Charm of Fortune” written in red lettering on a yellow base.
“Ojizō-san is in this charm, and his head is on the first character, shuku. When you go to Ojizō-san, hold this with two hands with shuku facin’ outward, and make sure that ya say yer name, address and just one wish. Ya don’t have to say all that out loud, but if ya want everyone to hear it, go ahead.
“As for why ya need to say yer address, it’s because the Ojizō-san here is the only one wearing sandals. He will go to the houses of people who made a wish, and grant them. That’s why the address is important, though ya don’t need the postcode.”
The monk quickly said, causing laughter to ripple across the crowd.
“Lots of people come here to this temple to get their wish granted. It’s up to each person to decide on their own wish, but if ya want to get married, it’d be best to make a wish along the lines of, ‘Please let me form a connection with someone suitable for me.’
“If ya want to be with some idol or something like that, it’s impossible, because they’ve got their own circumstances as well. Wishin’ for someone suitable is important.
“Also, it ain’t good to be fickle about yer wish. Many people come askin’, “Please help me cancel my wish,’ but I don’t know how to do that. Make up yer mind firmly before makin’ yer wish.
“And another thing. For couples who want a baby, ya oughta wish for the same thing. If the wife wishes to be blessed with a baby with all her might, it ain’t a good thing for the husband to wish to win the Autumn Jumbo Jackpot.”
With his speaking skills, he managed to get the crowd to laugh many times.
He was like a comic storyteller, and I was surprised by how his ability to talk went beyond simply impressive.
“Also, since yer makin’ a wish, make it something that will bring happiness to yerself and others. Wishin’ harm upon others will only destroy the virtues you’ve built up through the hardships in yer life.
“Hatin’ someone, being envious of ’em and wishin’ harm on ’em will cause yer virtues, luck and fortune to escape, so please wish for something that brings happiness upon yerself,” said the monk.
…That makes sense, I thought it my heart.
“And while we’re here, let me tell ya the difference between a charm and a talisman. There are quite a few people who don’t know this, actually. A charm is essentially used to protect someone, so make sure to always keep it on yer body. A year’s worth of prayers go into ’em, so they are effective for one year. Once that’s passed, please return ’em.
“A talisman is something to be placed at home, since it protects the home. Stick it somewhere facin’ the sunrise, but don’t go usin’ a thumbtack for that, you’ll stab the god residin’ in there. Come up with some other method to stick it on a surface. Talismans are also good for one year, but those in their calamitous year4 should stick one up before the next year arrives5.”
I see. So charms and talismans are effective for only a year.
I think we still have a faded talisman in the kitchen…
The monk’s talk was interesting and even informative. I really enjoyed it, and time passed in a flash.
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- A Shinto shrine at the base of Arashiyama, home to a spring that is said to be blessed, and was apparently founded back in 700 CE.
- The old name for Kyoto back in the Heian period.
- A shrine that was near the south entrance of Heian-kyō, but burnt down in 1233.
- Ages that are traditionally believed to be unlucky in Japan. The ages most often considered unlucky in Japan are 25, 42, and 61 for men, and 19, 33, and 37 for women, though there is much regional variation.
- The year following the calamitous year is also considered unlucky, as is the year preceding.