Saturday, October 18, 2014

Tamagawa Daishi Temple (Gyokushin Mitsuin Temple)

Earlier this week we had a typhoon move its way through our area.  Most of the clouds and rain cleared out by early Tuesday morning.  So, we all jumped in the car and headed to Tokyo for a couple days.  We didn't hit much traffic on the way there, so we ended up in the city early enough to get a full day's worth of sightseeing in.  First up:  Tamagawa Daishi Temple, also known as Gyokushin Mitsuin Temple.
So...a couple weeks ago I sat at the computer for half a day and researched directions, maps, prices, which trains to take and which attractions to see in which order to minimize our time spent on the train around the city.  Yeah...we got about halfway to Tokyo before I realized I left all my information at home.  Ugh!  I tried my best to remember.  From there, I used the concierge at the New Sanno to help me get the rest of the (re)planning done.  
With new maps in hand, we headed out to find this unique temple.  This is a temple I saw on the internet somewhere in a very short blog.  Basically, what the blogger said was that it looked plain on the outside, was hidden in a little neighborhood, and is supposed to simulate walking through Buddha's intestines.  Hmm...sounds...different...              From Hiroo Station we rode for about 20 minutes to Futako Tamagawa Station.  The temple is about a ten minute walk from here.  We ended up going too far up the road, the construction threw me off a bit.  On the map on the left, the circle with the check mark in the center is Futako-Tamagawa Station.  We  walked out of the station and headed to the right, up the main road.  Don't make our mistake and try to take the main road all the way to where the red line goes off the main road...the construction prevents this....and, I think maybe there is no way to get off the road that way.  There is a way to get off the main road and head on the side streets.  My best advice...google Futako-Tamagawa Station and then zoom in close enough to find the temple sign on the map and drop a pin.  

Once we found the temple, I must admit, we thought we had the wrong place.  It looks very small and it doesn't look like anything special.  We walked to the steps and made a right turn to walk through the little garden.  Kris wandered off to find out how to get to the tunnel while Dave and I took pictures.  The garden has several little dragon fountains and a lot of statues.  


This statue is huge!  The pamphlet we got from the temple was all in Japanese, so I have only my guess on what each thing is.  This guy is probably 30 feet tall.  Ha ha...I'm so bad at guessing measurements....don't even believe that guestimate for a minute.


Finally, Kris came out of the temple and said, come this way and take off your shoes.  So, we all took off our shoes and put them in the racks (the kids took off their shoes, but took them into the temple to put them on when they got to the tunnel).  Once inside, information got a bit overwhelming.  The lady that was explaining everything to us was doing so at a rapid pace.  And, it was very fragmented, so I was trying to decipher her speech as well as put it all back in an order that made sense.  She did explain that the tunnels represent Buddha's intestines and it is supposed to give us enlightenment when we make it all the way through.  She said it is very dark and we are supposed to put our right hand on the wall and always follow that wall.  Always go to the right (I'm having Game of Thrones flashbacks now).  She also said that there was something hidden in the wall...she pointed to a foot long cylindrical object on a table nearby.  I can't remember what it was called, but she said if your hand runs across it in the tunnel then you will have very good luck.  Finally, she asked us all our ages and told us she had to teach us the kanji for that number.  I'm not quite sure why....I'm guessing that some of the writing on the walls in the tunnel corresponded with our ages and would tell us something about our lucky year.  Not sure though.

We left all of our backpacks at the top of the stairs, dropped 100 Yen apiece into a basket, donned slippers (the kids put their shoes back on), and headed down a dozen steps.  Immediately we were plunged into darkness.  I'm not afraid of the dark by any means, but I took a few steps, went around a little (tight) curve and thought, "maybe I don't really want to do this.  Maybe I should just turn back around."  Then, I actually had to tell myself to take a couple deep breaths.  It seemed like the darkness was making it hard for me to breathe.  Garytt started whimpering and I heard Mackenzie telling Kris that she didn't want to do this.  But, we took their hands and told them to put their right hands on the wall and just take one step at a time.  After a few dozens steps in total darkness we came around a corner and saw a little light ahead.  When we came into the light we were greeted by rows and rows of statues.   There are 88 statues that represent the 88 holy sites of Shikoku.  (Pictures aren't allowed inside the temple, so the two pictures below are from the temple pamphlet.)

Next, we walked through more darkness, more tunnel, more turns.  We entered another chamber.  This one has 300 statues of Buddha.  I think this is the first time I've seen a sleeping Buddha, or maybe its called a resting Buddha.  Dunno...but, it was cool.  Again, we walked through more darkness, more turns, and then found the final chamber.  This chamber had the 33 statues of Kannon, the goddess of mercy.  At this point, Garytt was SO over the darkness.  I ended up carrying him through the last section of the tunnel.  Oh...and, that cylinder that was hidden in the tunnel...I found it!  The temple lady told me I would have very good luck!  
Once we were upstairs again Dave and I were getting our goshuinchou (stamp book) stamped and signed, the lady that greeted us asked where we were from.  She was so surprised to find Americans on the temple steps.  

From here, we decided to head out to O'daiba and have a little look-see.  And, as a special treat, we decided to take the train across Rainbow Bridge!  


Once across the bridge, we got off at Daiba Station and walked to the Gundam Statue.


Not sure what the deal is with this needle, but it makes a pretty picture.  


Gundam is just as cool each time we see him!


The Fuji TV Building


Side view of Fuji TV Building


After walking around for awhile, we decided to head over to Deck's for dinner.  The plan was to watch the sunset from the deck of a restaurant.  Well, all of a sudden the wind kicked up like crazy!  Strong enough to blow us around a bit.  So, we decided to go to Deck's and eat inside instead.  But, up first....sunset pictures of Tokyo!




After the sun went down we headed on in to the King of the Pirates restaurant.  It was pretty dark in the restaurant so most of my pictures did not turn out.  Kris had a hamburger steak, Dave had fish, Mackenzie and Garytt had chicken and fries, and I had an avocado burger and fries.  Yummy!  Dave's meal was a blast to watch!

While we waited for our food I ran outside to snap a few pictures of the night skyline.


After dinner we caught a train to take a gander at Tokyo Tower.  



The view from the observation deck was beautiful.  The typhoon cleared out the skies enough for us to see quite far.  Something we learned today...when the winds are a-blowin' the top observatory closes.

From here we all hopped back on a train and headed to the New Sanno for a good night's sleep before our next big adventure!