The tightly resonant drumming and the boisterous chanting could be heard almost the moment we got off the train at Nishi-Magome station. It was Monday October 12, Physical Education Day--a national holiday--but something else was happening here.
|In front of the Main Hall|
The group we encountered was one of many that converge on Ikegami Honmonji Temple on this day from Nichiren Buddhist temples all over Japan to commemorate the death of the thirteenth century priest Nichiren.
|Procession of believers in front of the temple|
Those uchiwadaiko, or "fan drums," may be very simple in construction, but the tension of the leather drumhead must be very high, because they sound they emit when beaten is remarkably loud, with a powerful tenor twang that is difficult to fully appreciate without hearing it live. That combined with the full-throated chanting that reminds you more of football crowd enthusiasm than religion (but perhaps that's a fine distinction?) make for a sound experience that you physically feel rather than just hear.
|The Main Hall of Ikegami Honmonji Temple|
|Crowds pray at the main temple|
The numerous groups doing their circuits around the neighborhood come together in front of the 27-meter high Soshi-do where with renewed energy they chant and drum and clash small cymbals. Each then enters the temple group-by-group to receive a blessing, then makes way for the next group.
|Visitors pay their respects at the temple|
|The stupa with Nichiren's ashes|
Adjoining the temple compound, on its west side, is Ikegami Baien (Ikegami Plum Tree Garden), a public park, with facilities including a lookout, and which provides a pleasant half-day diversion any time of the year.
Ikegami Honmonji is accessible from Ikegami Station on the Tokyu Ikegami Line (about 10 minutes walk), Nishi-Magome Station on the Yurakucho subway line (15 minutes walk), or by Tokyu Bus to Honmonji-mae bus stop from either Omori or Kamata stations on the Keihin Tohoku Line.
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