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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Tokudaiji Temple Tokyo oasis amidst commotion

特大寺 摩利支天

Tokudaiji is a small temple just off the bustling Ameyayokocho ("Ameyoko") alley very near Ueno in Tokyo. Tokudaiji is a Nichiren Buddhist temple that is distinguished by its venerating of the ancient Indian god, Marici—thus the sub-title of the temple: Marishi-ten.

Tokudaiji Temple, off Ameyokocho, Tokyo.

The exact origins of Tokudaiji are unclear, but it is believed to have been established in the 17th century.

The normal serenity associated with Buddhism and its temples is nowhere to be found in the vicinity. Rather, the surrounding Okachimachi neighborhood is at most times of the day a jam-packed cacophony of sellers and buyers, with most of the stores opening onto and selling directly from the streetfront.

Okachimachi is the station one stop south of Ueno, and the nearby Ameyoko alley has one of the biggest Asian store presences in Tokyo, especially Chinese, and is the place to go if you want to stock up on Chinese culinary ingredients, as well as a host of other exotic foods. There are numerous fish shops, fruit shops, and confectionery shops—in fact, Tokudaiji is completed surrounded by several different wings of the confectionery store, Niki Confectionery. There is Japanese food aplenty in Okachimachi, too, and it is where we buy our weekly supply of tofu every crowded, milling, yelling Saturday afternoon.

Entrance to Tokudaiji Temple, Okachimachi, Tokyo.

The god Marishi, although it appears in the  Bhagavad Gita, is apparently not so named in the modern Hindu pantheon. As enshined at Tokudaiji, he rides a wild boar, his left arm raised, and wielding a sword with his right hand. He is said to be the god of luck and victory, and as such was traditionally worshipped by those in the military and the entertainment world. Lending prowess to the god's reputation is the remarkable fact that it was spared in both the 1923 Tokyo earthquake and the bombings of World War Two.

Tokudaiji makes visiting Okachimachi and the Ameyoko street that runs through it a somewhat more pleasant experience, even if only as somewhere to escape the madding crowd for a few minutes.

Read more about Japanese shrines and temples.

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