Tour Report on 19 March 2018, Asakusa
Many thanks to the guests joining the tour. On that day at Sensoji Temple we welcomed 12 guests from Mexico, Phillipines, Argentina, Malaysia, and Norway. We divided into 4 groups. The weather was cloudy but spring has already come. Some of cherry blossoms started to bloom.
During the tour, you see statues halfway to the main temple hall, on back side of the entrance gate, Kaminari-mon there placed a couple statues.
They are humanized dragon couple. One is male and the other is female. As a proof, both have tales in the back. Their original figure is flying snake with a scary head. They are the guardians of the Buddha in Sensoji temple. In the main hall, dragon figure is painted on the ceiling.
Dragons were originally living in the Sumida River near the temple and appeared as guardians. We call them “Ryu.” There are many legends about dragons. The statues hold balls which can make any wish come true like Japan’s famous animation drama “Dragon Ball.”
For ordinary citizens, dragons are good luck and hazard prevention charm because they can cause rainfall, which is good for farming in the sense they can prevent drought and are good for the wooden building to protect from fire.
In some region of Japan, Dragons themselves are worshiped as gods at Shinto shrine. In Henoko town, Nago City, in Okinawa, southernmost island of Japan, there enshrined a sea dragon on the seacoast. Locals believe there lives a dragon god, which is divine and invincible.
Dragons living by water may be similar to a popular song, “Puff, the magic dragon.”
However, dragons are imaginary animals. At the souvenir shops in the temple premise, you find statues of cats and dogs. Cats with one hand moving back and forth is “Maneki-neko (Inviting Cat). This gesture means “Come in” in Japanese custom.
They are getting pedestrians into the shop in which the cat is placed. So if you buy one, it can be a charm for growth of business. A dog statue is a symbol of this year in the Chinese zodiac. The Chinese Zodiac, which we call ETO, is 12 animal year cycle starting from mouse, and then cow, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, bird, dog and then end with boar. Then it restarts from mouse. Every 12 year cycle, one meets his/her own year, in which one should rethink his/her life.
But the strange thing is there is no cat in the 12 Eto animals although cats are more popular pets than dogs in Japan. There is a legend about that. In the ancient time, a god invited all the animals on earth to Eto award ceremony which would be held on January 1st, first 12 animals who could reach the ceremony site could have been given Eto titles. Every animal was excited about that. But CAT forgot the date of ceremony so she asked MOUSE when it was. He took advantage of that and told her it was January 2nd. Then CAT missed the title. MOUSE was greedy and used COW as carriage to get to the ceremony and jumped off COW’s back once they reached the site so that he could become 1st animal in the 12 year cycle. Later CAT learnt she was cheated by MOUSE. That is why cats are hunting mice.
There are many legends or fairy tales related to statues, deities, gods, and even Buddha. Guides will tell you these so that you can enjoy the tour more. Why not join the tour to learn interesting stories?