Nakano Fudoson New Year Traditions

Happy New Year! I hope you had a good holiday. I didn’t make it to the New Year’s festival at Mt Iwatsuno, due to sudden snowfall in Fukushima – I’ll make sure to go next year – but I did visit Nakano Fudoson!

I’ve really wanted to visit Nakano Fudoson for a long time, and seeing as the weather was so lovely this morning, I took the opportunity to check out this temple and take photos while the winter snow is sticking around!

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Nakano Fudoson (Iizaka Onsen, Fukushima City) is a Zen Buddhist temple dedicated to the Buddhist deity Acala (Fudo in Japanese), one of the Buddhist ‘Kings of Knowledge’. Fudo is usually portrayed looking pretty angry and intimidating, and often stands at the entrances of temples.

The 3 forms of this deity can be praised at different areas within this temple.

  • Those hoping to ward off evil & bad luck can worship the deity at the main temple.
  • Those looking to protect their eyesight in the coming year can pray at the Kitoden.
  • Those wanting to worship the Fudo deity even more intimately can do so at the Okunoin cave complex, which contains 36 Buddhist statues.

 

Kitoden

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When I visited the Kitoden today, it was still decorated with traditional Japanese new year’s decorations like the kadomatsu pine tree decoration, which is thought to invite ancestral spirits to visit during this family holiday.

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There was also a place to leave your old good-luck charms from 2017 (shown above). Good luck charms, known as omamori in Japanese, are thought to be effective for only one year. It’s traditional to burn them when the year has finished.

 

Dainichido

This bright red pagoda was built in 1981 to celebrate 800 years since the opening of the temple. Dainichido contains a depiction of the high-ranking Buddha known as Tathagata, which is only revealed to the public once every 20 years.

 

Nakano Fudoson Waterfall

Behind the Dainichido is a picturesque waterfall, which is considered as sacred as the temple itself. Every February there is a festival where worshippers at Nakano Fudoson enter the waterfall and worship there to purify themselves. This year, the festival will be held on February 18th and 28th from 9:00-9:30.

 

The Okunoin Caves

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I found exploring this series of caves to be very peaceful. There are a number of long pathways, each of which has separate paths breaking off it, which lead to Buddhist statues.

Speakers in the cave play an explanation of the cave as a place of worship. The chanting which is included in this explanation is really rhythmic and relaxing.. also slightly entrancing!

I had heard about Nakano Fudoson since coming to Fukushima, and recommended it to my parents when they visited before I had actually gone. They were pretty surprised when they stumbled upon this elaborately carved cave structure which is thought to be as old as the temple itself!

Having actually visited the caves now, I can totally understand why they felt a bit scared having wandered in there with no knowledge of what they would find.

It is pretty dark in there, and the ceiling is rather low, but if you are as short as me (around 165cm) you should be OK to walk through without crouching down. It takes about 5-10 minutes to walk around.

 

Jakkomon

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Very beautiful gates decorated intricately. I loved the elephant designs that flank the gate.

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This area is used to hold a tea ceremony in mid July every year.

 

Beautiful Temple Grounds

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The temple grounds are really stunning. I really enjoyed taking photos here.

The bright red colour of the Dainichido and the Jakkomon gate really contrast with the surrounding scenery, especially when the temple grounds are blanketed with snow.

The temple, and all the places of worship that complete it, look different from every angle. Each angle provides an exciting new view.

During my visit, I noticed the sun was shining through the trees in a really beautiful way, almost as if there was steam in the air.

After wandering a bit further, I realized that it was not steam, but smoke.

A worker at the temple was burning the omamori good-luck charms of the past year. I was really surprised by the huge bag of omamori that was still stacked up behind him. He told me that people begin bringing their old omamori on December 31. Apparently, there is about 5 times as many omamori waiting for burning as shown in the photo above!

 

Main Temple

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As you return back to the main entrance to the temple complex, you come across the main temple, which is known to for its properties helping to ward off evil.

Near the main temple are lots of places to buy omamori good-luck charms for the year. Popular designs include daruma (read more about daruma in Fukushima here), and dogs, since 2018 is the year of the dog!

Rokusan Yoke

Nakano Fudoson has a unique tradition of providing worshippers with a good-luck charm called a Rokusan Yoke.

Depending on your age, the area of your body thought to be in particular risk of being injured in the coming year changes. Rokusan Yoke show you which area is at risk, and which direction is unlucky for the coming year. For 350 yen, you can receive this prediction, and a Rokusan Yoke which will protect you for the year to come.

The festival that takes place in the Nakano Fudoson waterfall that I mentioned earlier is focused around these Rokusan Yoke. Anyone can come and witness the festival, but those who would like to come and see need to purchase one of these charms (you can buy them on the day).

I made my own Rokusan Yoke. To do this, I had to input my name into a computer using the Japanese katakana alphabet, and also register my age and gender. Then I was presented with a little sheet showing the results. Apparently, my unlucky body part this year is my back, and I should take care when going on travels to the west of my house!

Hopefully I can make it to the festival in February. I’d love to speak to some of the worshippers who get to bathe in the waterfall.

I can’t believe there is this exciting a temple so close to where I live in Fukushima! Although it may be a little difficult coordinating the buses, Nakano Fudoson is definitely worth a visit if you are staying in – or visiting – Fukushima City.

 

Official Website:

(Japanese language only) Here

 

More information:

Fukushima City Tourism & Convention Association

 

Opening times

January to September: 08:30-17:00

October to December: 08:30-16:00

 

Access

Train: Take the Iizaka Train Line from the east side of Fukushima Station to Iizaka Onsen Station. From there, Nakano Fudoson is a 10 minute taxi ride.

Taxi: Take a taxi from Fukushima station. It will take around 20 minutes.

Bus: Take a bus from the East side of Fukushima Station to the entrance of Nakano Fudoson. Look for a bus which says this on the front: 福島駅東口経由大原綜合病院行. Get off at the stop 中野不動尊入口 (Nakano Fudoson Iriguchi). The bus takes around 25 mins and the temple is a 5 minute walk from this bus stop.

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