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O-eshiki at Ikegami Honmon-ji (Ikegami Honmon-ji Temple), a Great Occasion at Summer Night

Writer : Yuge Takahisa

In the brisk fall night breeze, my friend and I meet at Tokyo’s Ikegami by appointment and we are about to visit the Ikegami Honmon-ji O-eshiki, an annual event held between October 11 and October 13.

Ikegami Honmon-ji O-eshiki that commemorates Saint Nichiren
Ikegami Honmon-ji O-eshiki that commemorates Saint Nichiren

What is an O-eshiki?

An O-eshiki is a Buddhist service commemorating the anniversary of the death of Saint Nichiren (Nichiren Shonin), the founder of the Buddhist Nichiren Shu (literally “Sun Lotus Sect”). With its long-standing tradition, the O-eshiki date back 730 years. Although such ritual is conducted at temples throughout Japan between October 11 and October 13, it is at its largest and most impressive at Ikegami Honmon-ji, where Saint Nichiren passed away.

Great Oeshiki at Ikegami Honmon-ji

Ikegami Honmon-ji is 10 minutes’ walk from Ikegami Station on the Tokyu Ikegami Line. With over 30,000 people flocking to attend the festival each year, passengers getting out of the station are often greeted with a sea of faces. The station, which used to be quiet, is temporarily established with several additional exits, where many policemen are relieving traffic congestion.

Extremely crowded Ikegami Station
Extremely crowded Ikegami Station

Over the three days from October 11 to October 13, followers gather from near and far to offer up prayers. We get here on October 12, when the Mando (literally “ten thousand lanterns”) Kuyo Parade, the highlight of the festival, is taking place.

Mando Kuyo Parade, the highlight of the Oeshiki
Mando Kuyo Parade, the highlight of the Oeshiki

Mando Kuyo Parade

The Parade is voluntarily held by the processions from the temples across Japan. Some 3,000 disciples carrying Mando lanterns adorned with cherry blossoms march towards Honmon-ji. With participants chanting to the rhythm of drums, the event is a spectacular sight.

Disciples carrying Mando lanterns parade to Honmon-ji
Disciples carrying Mando lanterns parade to Honmon-ji

Leading each procession is a show of Matoi, a pole with long thin decorations, which, said to originate from the banners held by the fireman in the Edo period, is now being waved vigorously.

A show of a Matoi that is waved in front of a procession
A show of a Matoi that is waved in front of a procession

The trains of people seem to stretch endlessly.
They are singing while dancing, and the hustle and bustle of the Parade continues from a little past 5 pm to late night.

Mando Kuyo Parade
Mando Kuyo Parade
Mando Kuyo Parade
Mando Kuyo Parade

Besides, there is an illuminated lifelike portrait of Saint Nichiren and displayed on a float escorted by a procession.

An illuminated float of Saint Nichiren
An illuminated float of Saint Nichiren

Resembling a giant cherry tree, a Manto has a 5 m high model of a 5-storied pagoda that is brightly lit and decorated with white and pink cherry blossoms made from Washi paper, which drape down from the top of pagoda that is marked with the Japanese name (Namu Myoho Renge Kyo) of Lotus Sutra.
Legend has it that when Saint Nichiren passed away in October, many cherry trees in the vicinity mysteriously came into bloom, and this gives grounds for the cherry tree shape of the Manto.

The Manto resembles a giant cherry tree.
The Manto resembles a giant cherry tree.
A manto hanged with cherry blossoms
A manto hanged with cherry blossoms

Pray at Honmon-ji

The procession slows down when it is 150 m away from Honmon-ji.

Sando of Honmon-ji
Sando of Honmon-ji

Jostled by the throng, I finally behold the main gate of the temple.
My camera almost loses my grip due to the crowdedness.

People crowd around the main gate
People crowd around the main gate

Surprisingly, there is a stepped slope ahead after I go through the gate. The slope with its 96 steps leading to the main hall is called Shikyonanji-zaka, probably a name deriving from Lotus Sutra.
Pious visitors tend to ascend the steps without a rest.

Interior of Honmon-ji
Interior of Honmon-ji

At length, I work my way into the temple!
The interior is packed but not noisy; a solemn atmosphere pervade the temple.
With deep and solemn bells echoing in the air, people are praying piously.

Main hall of Honmon-ji
Main hall of Honmon-ji
Monks and visitors are praying
Monks and visitors are praying

Enjoying Delicacies at the Food Stands on the Return Trip♪

On my return from the temple, I find too many food stands lining the street and mainly serving up a variety of treats.
I’m amazed at the number of the stands, which totals 100, at the very least!

People making a eating tour
People making a eating tour
令人垂涎的路邊小吃
Mouthwatering snacks beside the street

If you come to Tokyo and want to gain some experience of Shitamachi’ customs, be sure to visit the O-eshiki held at Ikegami Honmon-ji between October 11 and October 13!

Basic information on the O-Eshiki at Ikegami Honmon-ji

OPEN

O-Eshiki at Ikegami Honmon-ji

Venue
Ikegami Honmon-ji, the administrative headquarters of the Nichiren Shu
Address
1-1-1, Ikegami, Ota, Tokyo [Map][MAP]
Dates
October 11, 2017 (Wednesday) to October 13, 2017 (Friday)
Access
10-mintute walk from Ikegami Station on the Tokyu Ikegami Line
Admission
Free
Official website of Ikegami Honmon-ji
Ikegami Honmonji Temple (JPN)( External link )

※This is an annual festival held on the same day regardless of wind or rain