“Totoro moments” in Japan…

If you keep your eyes open and occasionally wander off the beaten track, life in Japan is full of what I like to call “Totoro moments”. Totoro, as I’m sure you know, is a famous character from the Studio Ghibli animation “My Neighbour Totoro“. “My Neighbour Totoro”, like most of the other Studio Ghibli movies, is full of these gorgeous little moments of magic. The kind of moments that, as we grow older, we so easily miss. Our daily lives are hectic, we’re too busy looking at our iPhones, and are minds are distracted by work.

Sometimes I like to go walking, here in Japan. Last Monday was one of those days where I just said “Ok feet, let’s go!” and began walking in the general direction of the nearest AEON shopping mall (in Ichino, which is in the north part of Hamamatsu). I sometimes checked the GPS on my phone for a hint of the vague direction I should be heading in, but mostly I let my feet and heart lead me. This is the best kind of walking, I find.

Along the way I discovered a whole bunch of cute little temples and shrines, which I will probably share with you soon. However, today I want to introduce you to one temple in particular: 十輪禪寺 (Jyuurinzenji).

十輪禪寺 (Jyuurinzenji), a temple in Hamamatsu

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十輪禪寺 (Jyuurinzenji), a temple in Hamamatsu

This temple is so small and unknown, even in this local area, that I had to ask my oldest student (who is in her seventies) to confirm that I was even reading the kanji right (not that I could read it, but my co-worker told me it was either “jyuu rin zen ji”, “to wa zen ji”, “to rin zen ji” or “jyuu wa zen ji”). She confirmed that it was in fact Jyuurinzenji, although she didn’t really know the temple herself.

Anyway, I didn’t even come to this sign at first. The sign was at the main entrance to the temple, at the front:

十輪禪寺 (Jyuurinzenji), a temple in Hamamatsu

…but I managed to sneak in the back way. I was walking along this quiet little local street lined with houses, when I saw a whole bunch of trees and what looked like it could possibly be a temple or shrine. Then, in the middle of the wall I was walking by, I noticed a small entrance and some steps. It was all a bit Labyrinth-esque, minus the talking worm and the Goblin King, but I entered anyway. I was surrounded by leafy trees and I really did expect to see some tiny creature skuttle by, or some hint of Totoro. I heard an old lady’s voice talking in Japanese, but could only hear her voice. I wondered who she was talking to. As I rounded the corner, I found the little old lady, and her companion…

十輪禪寺 (Jyuurinzenji), a temple in Hamamatsu

The lady was polishing this little fellow and speaking to him in soothing tones, “kirei ni narimashita, ne? ureshii, ne?” (“You became clean, didn’t you? You’re happy now, aren’t you?”).

She stopped when she noticed me and gave me this big grin. I asked her in Japanese if it was ok to take a picture. She moved away but let me take a photo of her friend. I guessed she didn’t want me to take her picture, so I didn’t. She asked me, I think, if I liked the statues. I said I really liked them and this seemed to make her happy. She said goodbye to her little buddy and wandered off. I’m not sure where she went though – it was like she vanished into the bushes.

And then I was left alone in the tiny temple. Except, I wasn’t alone. Not at all. I had a lot of new friends to meet…

十輪禪寺 (Jyuurinzenji), a temple in Hamamatsu

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十輪禪寺 (Jyuurinzenji), a temple in Hamamatsu

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十輪禪寺 (Jyuurinzenji), a temple in Hamamatsu

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十輪禪寺 (Jyuurinzenji), a temple in Hamamatsu

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十輪禪寺 (Jyuurinzenji), a temple in Hamamatsu

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十輪禪寺 (Jyuurinzenji), a temple in Hamamatsu

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十輪禪寺 (Jyuurinzenji), a temple in Hamamatsu

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十輪禪寺 (Jyuurinzenji), a temple in Hamamatsu

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十輪禪寺 (Jyuurinzenji), a temple in Hamamatsu

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十輪禪寺 (Jyuurinzenji), a temple in Hamamatsu

This last one is my favourite. He just looks so happy! I wonder what the box next to him is, though. It looks like something from Laputa.

Out the front of the temple, these was this little guy sweeping up, too…

十輪禪寺 (Jyuurinzenji), a temple in Hamamatsu

I remain utterly enchanted, and totally baffled by this little temple. I have no idea what all these little statues represent. Are they Buddhas? Gods? Monks? If any of you can shed any light on this I would love to know!

And just remember, next time you’re out and about in Japan, or anywhere in fact, look around you, take a peek through that little door you found, wander down those steps… Maybe you can have a “Totoro moment” too! 😉

This post is a Show Me Japan entry. Please don’t forget to check out the others!

14 thoughts on ““Totoro moments” in Japan…

  1. Totoro moments. What a great way to put it.

    I love those moments when the outside world seems to just fall away, and you’re transported, either back in time to an older Japan, or just transported away, to a focus on just the very here and now, just you and this place, wherever it may be.

    … My first instinct would be to say that the figures might be the Rakan (aka Arhat, Luo han), the disciples of the historical Buddha. But then, the sweeping one doesn’t really fit in. Maybe he’s just a monk, and the rest are Rakan? Or maybe they’re all just monk figures. Just a guess.

    Thanks for another great post!

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    • Thanks Toranosuke! Yeah, they do look like Rakan, don’t they. I think you might be right. I think the little sweeping dude might be a newer addition to the temple, so yeah, maybe he’s just a monk.

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  2. Just wait till mister gets here, I bet my wallet that he’ll explain these statues in excruciating detail. 🙂
    And I see you’ve been paying attention. I was talking about Totoro a couple of weeks ago. And now, thank you very much, that theme song is stuck in my head yet again… 🙂

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  3. How wonderful for you to find this little place! I love all the statues, but I think the worried-looking little guy is my favorite. So full of character!

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  4. Based upon the name, this temple appears to be in a Zen school of Buddhism. As I am not good at Buddhism, I am not sure the historical significance of these little statues. They all look so new. I am glad to know that they are beloved by local.
    Thanks for sharing and have a wonderful Sunday evening.

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  5. I found a bunch of those little statues too, at a Buddhist temple in Seoul. They were a lot more scary looking, I rather like your little friends. Thanks for posting, you helped me figure out who they are!

    Like

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