B is for 仏

B is for hotoke, or the Japanese word for Buddha. I grew up around buddhas. My family’s house was filled with them. Old iron and wooden faces conveyed a sense of peace and clarity that I think calmed me as a child. There was one buddha in particular that I always felt a certain affinity to, and would often rub his hands or head when I walked by him in the living room.

Japan, naturally, is full of buddhas as well. Arhats, bodhisattvas, buddhas, and other deities are as common as American flags in the U.S. Not just relegated to the temples and sects to which they belong, buddhas can also be found hidden in the mountains, on streets, and in homes, offering protection and wisdom to those that notice.

What has become so familiar will be hard to leave, next year. The smell of incense, monks trolling down the streets chanting, and the distant clang of bells are part of the heartbeat of Kyoto, and it is strange to think of living without it.

Pictured below are some of the buddhas of Japan, most in my neighborhood. The buddhas with pinwheels protect the souls of unborn children that have died, while the final picture, one of my personal favorites, shows an arhat laughing behind another similar statue that already lost its head.

Images hosted on Flickr. 

https://flic.kr/p/oQTJZN

Musashi Miyamoto in Kyoto

Ota Shrine & Shisendo

https://flic.kr/p/pNCRfJ

Sekizan Zen-in

78 thoughts on “B is for 仏

    • Alex Hurst says:

      I think you may be remembering Sanjusangendo, the Hall of a Thousand Kannon. It’s very famous, and very beautiful. Unreal to think of how many years it took for them all to be carved….

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  1. Tarkabarka says:

    I love the last picture! And the one with the writing. I have never lived in a place where the majority religion was different from my own. It must be a fascinating experience!
    PS: The show you asked about on my blog is called Vikings. The translation of the saga I read is linked at the beginning of the post.
    (Sorry, I have to re-set my blog so I can reply to comments directly…)
    🙂

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    Multicolored Diary – Epics from A to Z
    MopDog – 26 Ways to Die in Medieval Hungary

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alex Hurst says:

      Thanks so much for the information! I’d heard about that show… the production value looks really good. 🙂

      The writing is really cool… it’s a detail of the tapestry right above it. The whole painting is made out of a long sutra (prayer) written by hand. 🙂

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  2. somberscribbler says:

    I loved coming across the old buddhas in the mountains of Japan…the ones that look as if they had been there forever. Their edges were soften by the weather and they were covered by moss, but you know someone was still visiting because there would be fresh offerings. Have you seen the giant one in Nara? It was quite something to behold!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alex Hurst says:

      I really recommend it if you ever get a chance. There are little treasures everywhere. It’s hard to see, but that tapestry I showed the photo of is comprised entirely of kanji characters, and is a sutra written out over and over, building the scene of the Buddha’s death.

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    • Alex Hurst says:

      I agree. There’s a long trail up the mountain behind our house, and every 50 meters or so there is another Buddha on the path that helps with different afflictions, like blood pressure, tobacco addiction, etc. It’s really interesting.

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    • Alex Hurst says:

      Thanks, Sheena. When I first learned about them I almost cried… so many of them with little bibs. Hard not to be moved when there are so many up on the mountainside.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Alex Hurst says:

      Thanks so much, Sue. The buddhas with pinwheels are very beautiful, but their meaning is a bit sad. They protect the souls of unborn children, who can not be buried in any way.

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    • Alex Hurst says:

      Sometimes we leave stuff behind… the place they’re a part of need the character. 🙂 I always like finding little gems in a new place I move into. My family once found a fully-assembled miniature sailing boat under our bathtub…. weirdest place ever, since it was less than a crawl space. But there it was. Beautiful, wooden, Spanish ship!

      Liked by 2 people

    • Alex Hurst says:

      There is a certain similarity between temples and Buddhas in Korea and Japan. They have similar austere, whereas temples in Taiwan and China are more colorful and complex.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Alex Hurst says:

      Usually the Buddhas in museums are pretty impressive…. No damage. I bet it was awesome! Thanks for stopping by, Patricia!

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  3. Carrie-Anne says:

    I love Buddhas! I have one my ex sold to me, and another small one I bought at some Oriental-themed store at a now-defunct mall. One day I want to get a much larger one for the living room or a garden. I also have a cross-stitch of Buddha sitting under a Bonsai tree, with Chinese characters on the right and left sides. One of the cross-stitch projects in my queue is another design of Buddha, I believe with cherry blossoms.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alex Hurst says:

      I feel that way too, sometimes. But living in Japan has made me see my American culture a little more clearly, despite how subtle it is. Everyone has culture. 🙂

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  4. Hannah G says:

    Even though I’m not particularly religious, I love the idea of these little items and statues and scents everywhere, commemorating things and people, taking on their own idiosyncracies through time. It’s really lovely. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sharon Marie Himsl says:

    A Japanese student my husband and I befriended and let live with us for awhile lives in Tokyo. I never realized how different our culture is from theirs. Everything in the home, for instance, should have a function. I loved the simplicity she taught us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alex Hurst says:

      That must have been quite the experience! I think I’d enjoy opening my home to Japanese exchange students… when I finally have a home of my own, haha!

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    • Alex Hurst says:

      That’s my favorite one, too. But if you click the photo, you can go to the album where all of his friends are. All of the arhats in this temple were really unique.

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  6. lostforwords101 says:

    Hi Alex, my “B” and “C” entries were also of Buddhas. 🙂

    Every time I visit a temple, I am always drawn into calm and peacefulness of the place, specifically because of the smell of the incense.

    I haven’t been to Japan but my favorite Buddha so far is the big sitting Buddha in an island in Hong Kong.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alex Hurst says:

      Oooh! I want to read them, but your name links to your gravatar, and no websites are set up… could you give me the link? 🙂

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  7. Nagzilla says:

    Do you happen to know why they put clothes on some of the Buddha statues? When we visited the shrine in Asakusa, there were a couple of the statues that were either wearing clothes or wrapped in red fabric. I never saw anything that told what that signified.

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    • Alex Hurst says:

      I didn’t know ahead of time, but I did some research. It depends what sort of statue the bibs are on, but basically, if it’s like the “jizo” statues above, the bib is supposed to help guide the buddha to find the child that was lost. Many of the bibs are “stained” literally or figuratively, with the smell of the infant that died, and it helps the buddha find them.

      If it’s not a ‘jizo’ but another type, it’s a garment meant to symbolize clothing, as the buddha is a traveller, and needs clothing to survive the elements. Yay, learning!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. saraletourneau says:

    There’s something soothing about the Buddha’s presence. I’m not necessarily a Buddhist, but I respect the ideas and beliefs that are part of it, and a number of Buddha quotes have touched me over the past few years. In fact, I think I posted an article earlier this year where… Yes, here, if you don’t mind me pasting the link here:

    https://saraletourneau.wordpress.com/2015/02/20/1000-speak-self-compassion/

    Lovely post, just like all the others, btw. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. roweeee says:

    Yay! Made it through all 24 of your Blogging A-Z posts tonight in one massive marathon session. I am struggling with following blogs back and forth through the letters and have suggested people do a summary page linking to all their posts. I worked out that I wrote 38.770 words on my blog during the challenge but that doesn’t include all the comments I’ve lift and I leave comments on my posts so a lot of words have flowed through these hands and onto the keyboard. Take care and it’s a bit hard to think about wher to from here especially as I will soon be writing about some very sad topics: the execution of two Australian in INdonesia and the sale of the family holiday house in Palm Beach which has been my “Japan” for the last 2 years…the calm through the storm xx Rowena

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alex Hurst says:

      I commend you! That was a massive feat. I was rooting for you as the notification emails came rolling in, haha. 😀 I’ll be doing a reflections post soon… in the meantime, I’ve added your blog to my reader, so I’ll definitely be checking you out once my fingers stop hurting from the 160 blogs I commented on today. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • roweeee says:

        Good to hear I’m not the only one doing the post A-Z tour. I’m now trying to slow my brain down a bit although I’m trying to get motivated to write about the two Australians executed in Bali last week and that is going to be very heavy going. Hope you are having a good day. I’ve actually been out socialising in the real world today and it’s been fabulous!! xx Rowena

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