Jizō answered in a dream. Tamura was told to draw pictures of the god and to float them on a river. When the samurai awoke, a block of wood with a picture of Jizō on the surface had appeared at his bedside. Tamura covered the surface in red ink, made ten thousand impressions and released the papers in the Sumida River.
His wife recovered.
|Jizō statue at Kōgan-ji|
Tamura thought the block of wood was too sacred to keep. He donated it to a temple called Kōgan-ji (高岩寺), which was located in the Kanda area at that time (late 1600s, early 1700s). It was moved to Sugamo in the 1800s and now stands in Jizō-dōri (地蔵通り), which I wrote about in this post.
|Entrance to Kōgan-ji. The photo was taken in late December.|
That explains the New Year's decorations.
Ready for the second part of the story? Let's visit another household, this time belonging to a lord of the famous Mōri clan. One day one of his maids accidentally swallowed a broken needle that she'd been holding between her teeth. The needle got stuck in her throat and couldn't be removed. She was taken to Kōgan-ji, where a print of Jizō's likeness was made and added to a cup of water. When the maid drank the water, she threw up the needle.
That's how Kōgan-ji got its nickname, Togenuki Jizō (とげぬき地蔵) or "thorn-extracting Jizō"; and to this day it's believed that this particular temple has the power to remove thorns and splinters. If you go to the temple, you can buy a small strip of paper which you attach to your body wherever there's a thorn, a splinter or another ache. You can eat the paper too, if you wish, or …
|Paper strips which you can buy at Kōgan-ji|
You can go scrub Kannon. The more the suds fly, the better your health will be.
Although the temple is still called the thorn-extracting Jizō, it's equally famous for a statue called Arai Kannon Bodhisattva (洗い観音菩薩) or "washing Kannon". If you have any ache or illness, you should pour water on the statue's body – on the same spot where you have a problem – and then dry the statue with a cloth. That will cure your problem.
|The Kannon statue at Kōgan-ji. You wash/dry the part of the statue's body|
that corresponds to an ache in your own body.
|I stood at the temple for a long time, watching old folk washing the statue.|
Most visitors washed everything, from head to toes.
|You think she's from Osaka?|
You can also buy amulets for healing, and some stalls provide acupressure for arthritic joints.
The temple is popular with the old folk who frequent this area, but you'll see plenty of youngsters lining up, too. The queue gets exceptionally long on the 4th, 14th and 24th of each month, which are regarded as extra auspicious days.
|If that's an old woman, she's got amazing legs!|
|Not all visitors are old.|
I read that in earlier years, the Kannon was scrubbed by brushes, but her devotees were so enthusiastic that they threatened to wear away the bronze statue. Nowadays you have to use a soft cloth.
Language note for non-English readers
"A thorn in your side" refers to a person or a situation that is causing trouble or making life difficult for you. The expression originated in The Bible (link here).
|The main temple itself. Most visitors make a beeline for Kannon.|
The statue is to the left in this photo.
|Early-morning incense smoke|
|Jizō statues at Kōgan-ji|
|This was very early in the morning. Give it another hour, and there will be|
a long queue.