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. 


Musashi Miyamoto in Kyoto

Ota Shrine & Shisendo


Sekizan Zen-in