I got to know about this place from a friendly (most of them are) Japanese while traveling in a bus. After much mis-communication, he figured out what I wanted (info on good tourist places nearby). He highly recommended me to this place, he even wrote the name of the place in his language, incase I had trouble finding the place and gave me the list of bus numbers to get there.

Historical Overview of Kawasaki Daishi a.k.a. Heikenji

In the early 12th century, there was a feudal lord named Kanenori Hirama holding a fief (land) in Aichi Prefecture. Yoshimitsu Minamoto, his boss and chief of the Minamoto clan, deprived him of the fief because of a false charge filed against him. In distress, he started on a roaming journey and settled finally at the marshland near estuary of the Tama {tah-mah}River circa 1130, where he began earning a livelihood by fishing at Tokyo Bay.

Legend narrates that in the sea near the house Hirama lived in, there was something that emitted light every night. While he was asleep one night, a great-looking priest appeared in his dream and identified himself as Priest Kukai (774-835), the founder of the Shingon Sect. The Priest told him, “When I was in China to study Buddhism, I carved my own statue and threw it into water offering a prayer to save suffering people. The radiating object off the beach is the statue of my own. Cast a net and pick it up. If you continue to embrace the statue, you will be protected from evils.” Hirama was exactly 42 years old at the time, believed to be an evil year for men. He deferred to the Priest’s revelation in the dream and went into the sea with a net. As had been predicted, he found the statue and caught it in the net. He brought it back home and worshiped it faithfully night and day.

main hall 

Shortly afterward, an itinerant priest of Kongobuji, Sonken by name, visited Hirama’s house and watched the statue, which looked precisely like Priest Kukai. Moved by Hirama’s faith in Priest Kukai and the statue, he built a small temple for Hirama so that Hirama might enshrine the statue. This small temple was the origin of today’s Heikenji. (Hirama can also be pronounced Heiken {hay-ken} in Chinese characters and the namesake of Heikenji).Hirama’s faith seem to have brought him a miraculous virtue. The false charges against him proved to be groundless. Hirama was acquitted and permitted to assume the original position as the lord of a fief in Aichi. Upon returning to Aichi, he donated half of his fortune to the Temple to express his deep sense of gratitude. The story spread fast and people began to believe that the Temple has a magical power to prevent ill fortune. Gaining a reputation for being able to ward off evils, it turned into a magnet for the faithful.

Octagonal Five-story Pagoda

Priest Kukai, a.k.a. Kobo Daishi

He is known as the founder of the Shingon Sect, or the Esoteric Buddhism (also referred to as Tantric Buddhism) in Japan. The Buddhist honorable title Kobo Daishi was conferred on him. Daishi is literally a great master, an honorific title given by the Imperial Court to prelate-like priests with high virtue.

Kobo Daishi

Besides his role as a religious leader, Priest Kukai was also a great calligrapher, a poet and an artist. The fifty one hiragana {he-rah-gah-nah}, or the Japanese phonetic symbols widely used today, were invented by him simplifying Chinese characters. The first thing today’s Japanese school children have to learn are those hiragana. Before hiragana was invented, all Japanese wordage were written or expressed in complicated Chinese characters.

Shingon Sect and Esoteric Buddhism
 Teachings of Esoteric Mahayana Buddhism originate in India and flourished from the 6th to the 10th centuries. In Japan Priest Kukai introduced it as noted above.

Lake with Buddha statue

The Sect puts more emphasis on elaborate and secret ritual practices such as mantras and mudras rather than theoretical doctrines. This purificatory and exorcist rites are so elaborate and complicated that no other sect Buddhists can follow. In this context, the Sect has closer affinity with Hinduism and Lamaism. Best known among the services would be a sacred fire-ritual for invocation, which is called Goma or Homa in Sanskrit, meaning a holy fire for invocation to exorcise evil spirits. Not in the written scriptures at all, the method of rituals are handed down from masters to disciples by word of mouth. As a result, the Sect is said to be secret or esoteric.

Yakuyoke, or warding off evil fortune

Yaku denotes every sort of misfortune, be it man-made calamity or natural disaster. The Japanese still harbor the belief that those misfortunes befall them by the power of evil spirits or divine punishments, and they have to exorcise those evil spirits in order to drive them out. Esoteric Buddhism as represented by the Shingon Sect seems to fit for those who want to be free from ill fortunes rather than those who seek happiness, since the Sect supplicates the gods with greatest fervency.

Yaku-doshi or yaku year and yaku age are also of great concern for the Japanese. According to the Onmyo school, the age 25 and 42 for men and 19 and 33 for women are thought to be critical years. Those whose age reach yaku-doshi are usually at a crossroad in life and are deemed vulnerable for evil influences. Here again, Yakudoshi men and women visit temples or shrines to get divine favors. The Yaku-doshi concept is not necessarily superstitious. Statistically, those ages are climacteric ones and those who reaches yaku-dosh are most likely to experience one misfortune or another.

Yaku changes with time, however, and today’s top yaku would be traffic accidents. Every year, no fewer than one million people are injured in traffic accidents, and of those, 10,000 people were killed (counting only those who died within 24 hours after accidents). Almost all car owners visit temples or shrines to have priests exorcise the evil spirit and pray for the drivers to be protected from accidents in one way or another. The Temple is among the most popular in this respect, so popular that it has an independent prayer hall (see photo) for the safe traffic temple. Applicants can apply for it by paying 3,000 yen (1300 Indian Re) a car, usually good for one year.

 Prayer Hall for Safe Traffic

There is no information about this idols anywhere. These idols looks more like fusion of Western and Indian style. 

Sunset on Kawaskai Daishi

Sunsets, be it in Mysore or Japan will always make me run for my camera and try to capture that moment.

Empty street just outside the temple

This street is usually filled with people, but that day being a weekday and pretty late in the evening, all the shops were closed.

Date of visit: 30 th July 2005
Categories: Japan

Anoop Hullenahalli

An Electronics Engineer working on wireless embedded systems for a living. Traveling, photographing and sharing my experiences here at ANUBIMB helps me unwind and break the monotony of life.


tanayesh · 16 Jan ’06 at 4:21 pm

hi…..nice blogs wth nice pictures…well can u plz tell me which camera do u use coz the pictures are of great quality…i myself use a canon slr digital but the pictures are not tht gud..u can check out my blog at http://life4some.blogspot.com….bye…cya

anoop · 17 Jan ’06 at 5:23 am

thanQ Tanayesh, I have a Canon PowerShot S2 IS and no it is not better than any Digital SLR camera. I took a look at your blog, Im not so experienced so as to give you my advice, but try using auto modes more while taking pics, I have observed that most of the times its better than manual mode.

Keshav · 17 Jan ’06 at 6:35 am

Hey! I must admit you are really good at photography. And to top that you own a really good camera.The last two snaps are commendable!Kudos!

Bindya · 29 Dec ’09 at 3:04 pm

Great photos, of course. But great info too. Where did you learn so many things about this place. I have been here for around a month now and all I see is in japanese. This info is really good to know. Thanks 🙂

anoop · 29 Dec ’09 at 4:50 pm

Thanks. Unlike you I knew that I had less time on my hands so wanted to make good use of my time. All that info I got from the booklet I picked up at the temple. I highly recommend a visit!

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