Google+ Rurousha 流浪者: Temples where women can pray for beauty

Monday, 13 January 2014

Temples where women can pray for beauty

"A thing of beauty is a joy for ever: its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness." – John Keats, Endymion

That’s one of the most famous quotes about this topic, though I – in possession of more brains than beauty and long past the age when youth serves as a consolation prize  – prefer this one:

"You can take no credit for beauty at sixteen, but if you are beautiful at sixty, it will be your soul's own doing." – Marie Stopes

Beauty. We all want it for ourselves; we all enjoy being in its presence. Here in Japan a woman's physical appearance seems to be unusually important, based on the hours and staggering amounts of yen that women spend at "aesthetic salons" and on skincare, cosmetics and fashion. (I know only one Japanese woman who never wears makeup, and that's a friend who's a professor in anthropology.) Women want to be beautiful, and if the ¥200 000 they blew on Révive Peau Magnifique's vials didn't deliver what it promised, they can always ask Jizō for help.

The "make-up" Jizō at Gyokuhō-ji

Yes, gentle readers, of course there are temples in Tokyo where women can pray to be beautiful! Fewer than I'd have guessed, but I'll introduce you to two.

The first one is Banryū-ji (蟠龍寺) or the "temple of the sheltered dragon" in Meguro. It's actually most famous for its statue of Benten, the deity of music and fine arts, but it also has a small statue of Jizō, Oshiroi Jizō (おしろい地蔵) or "white powder Jizō", where you can pray to be attractive. If you see white powder on the statue, it's because women believe the white powder will make them beautiful.

The entrance to Banryū-ji

Banryū-ji

The "white powder Jizō" is the one on the left, with the red bib.

Benten's statue is in a cave next to Banryū-ji

Benten ema

Incidentally, I've read that kabuki actors also pray to this statue. Kabuki actor, white paint, beauty … it all fits together.

The second temple is Gyokuhō-ji (玉鳳寺) in Minato, which also has a Jizō statue with a white face. This one is called Okeshō Jizō (お化粧地蔵) or "make-up Jizō". It's said that a priest found a battered, muddy statue in this vicinity. He cleaned it and tried to repair the bruised face with white powder, but then a miracle occurred and bruises on his own face also disappeared. (I haven't been able to determine the cause of the priest's disfigurement. If anybody can help, please yell!)

The statue has the power to make you beautiful; removes scars and blemishes from your face; and helps you to recover from illness.

Gyokuhō-ji

The Jizō statue is to the left as you enter the temple.

The make-up Jizō

Food for the stomach,  Johnson cream for the all-important face

Gyokuhō-ji

More Jizō statues at Gyokuhō-ji

You know you live in the shitamachi when you start taking photos of slopes.
Look! Hill! We don't have that in our neighbourhood!

Another hill

Almost 19 m above sea level! Wow! Himalayas!

I end this short post with another wisdom I believe in:

"There is no exquisite beauty without some strangeness in the proportion." – Edgar Allan Poe

Perfect plastic beauty that conforms to whatever current fashion dictates? Boring. Different, unique, strong, quirky? Yes. Please. Thank you.

I've included two maps: the top one is for Banryū-ji, the bottom one for Gyokuhō-ji.




View Larger Map

46 comments:

  1. Very interesting! Do you know of any temples for men, where they can pray to become handsome? I'd love to find a temple to pray for more sake or beer :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aren't men supposed to pray for success rather than attractiveness? :)

      Temple for sake or beer? I accept that challenge. Watch this space ...

      Delete
    2. I think... even bald, paunchy male can somehow be attractive. Provided there's a fat wallet somewhere ;)

      Delete
    3. Neither fat wallet nor fat belly does it for me.

      "Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look;
      He thinks too much: such men are dangerous."

      Oh yes please!

      Delete
  2. I also like what Marie Stopes says. I hope I will be an interesting, beautiful obaa-chan おばあちゃん when I get old.

    Still, it's not a bad idea to visit those Jizo. (^_-)-☆  




    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have no idea what you look like, but ... you're already interesting and you have a beautiful blog. Mission accomplished. ;)

      Delete
    2. me too! me too! me too!

      Delete
    3. Lina, bunny ears don't need additional beauty! :D

      Delete
  3. Interesting. Nice photos. And good quotes. I got to thinking about beauty always having a flaw. There is a lingering belief - from the ancient Greek I think - that being perfect is a dangerous challenge to the gods. Therefore one should be on the safe side and introduce at least one flaw into any creation - a building, sculpture, painting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Japan has the concepts "wabi" and "sabi". Encyclopedias have been written about their meaning, but in short, they suggest a quality of bleakness, age, deterioration, simplicity, impoverished rusticity. So Japan, too, has -- or perhaps had -- an appreciation of the non-perfect, but I fear that's never applied to its women ...

      Delete
  4. The Johnson cream - did someone bring and left it there? or it is there for people to use?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's not for people to use. It's probably an offering by either the resident priest or a visitor.

      Delete
  5. This might be a whole lot easier than the face lift that I was contemplating... ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have a wonderful method to improve my looks: I drink umeshu and take off my glasses before I look at myself in the mirror. >:)

      Delete
  6. interesting, pray for beauty.. i am sure all girls love to go there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This old girl prefers to go to bookshops. :)

      Delete
  7. Hehe I know of another nation that is obsessed about beauty and esthetic surgery: Venezuela! The most important event in the country is the Miss Venezuela contest, which has spanned an entire industry. Young girls are groomed since a tender age for the contest, which does not only include appropriate training, but also strategic surgery to "fix" any blemish (aargh, I agree with you and Edgar Allan Poe, blemishes and irregularities are what make people interesting). And the obsession is so big that girls ask for a nose or boobs job as a present for when they come of age. The country is one of the largest user of beauty products per capita in the world, equally divided between women and men (this obsession is gender neutral). It is really crazy.

    White powder associated to beauty: is that a reference to the white makeup used by geisha and maiko? I hope it has nothing to do with the obsession in other countries (like India) for products to whiten the skin (but there is unfortunately also a similar fad among US black women, sigh).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm vaguely aware of the South American beauty contest obsession, but I didn't realize that Venezuela was the queen of the crop.

      It reminds me of Korea, which has the highest rate of plastic surgery in the world, with 1 out of 5 women in Seoul having undergone some kind of procedure.

      Perhaps I'm being unfair to Japan when I say women are expected to be perfect. Small blemishes aren't only allowed; they're regarded as "cute". Example: "yaeba" or crooked teeth. Google it. (Yours truly, who suffered braces as a child, can only observe this phenomenon in flabbergastation.)

      http://yaebasuperstar.blog123.fc2.com/

      Another example is facial moles. I've seen a few bad ones, but they're not removed because they're supposed to give the face "character".

      As far as a white skin is concerned, oh dear oh dear oh dear, it's an obsession. That explains the parasols, the elbow-length gloves in summer, the sun visors, the whitening lotions and this Wikipedia entry:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whiteness_in_Japanese_culture

      Delete
    2. Oh, I had noticed some anime characters with weird "vampire-like" teeth which were supposed to be cute, and now I know why (the weird part was that the protruding teeth were not the canine but the ones behind). Ooookay!

      So, according to Wikipedia they use some bird dropping for in face-washing for whitening skin???

      Delete
    3. Reminds me of a story of how some girls get their teeth "fixed" to be more yaeba. They use braces to create a more uniformed version.

      On a personal note, I kinda have it on one tooth. When it naturally occurs, it is when your teeth are a little too big so those specific teeth start to turn. I was contemplating surgery and braces till my dentist told me how they could fix it. He'd have to shave all of my teeth by a bit and then I'd wear braces to help shift my teeth into place. Needless to say, I said no.

      PS: Why whitening creams can be dangerous: Article

      Delete
    4. Forgot one more thing here. I have too many "beauty marks" on my face. Been thinking to remove them surgically. Not necessarily for looks but for health. They have grown a bit since I came to Japan so I'm actually a little worried about them. Only problem, getting them removed is VERY EXPENSIVE in Japan. At least the last time I checked.

      Delete
    5. Massimo, I've seen students who have a double row of teeth, like a shark.

      I have horrible English (colonial) [even worse!] teeth {as opposed to perfect American tombstones}, but I'm very grateful my parents subjected me to braces in order to tame them as much as possible.

      Then, when I was 31, I smashed my front teeth and right jaw in a horrible car accident. Now it's all plastic and steel.

      Yes, women lose their brains when it comes to their looks: bird shit, sheep placenta, botox ...

      Delete
    6. Dru, my mouth is too small ...

      Oh, don't laugh. Yes, it's NOT TOO BIG, it's TOO SMALL!

      It's too small for 32 teeth, so I got 4 permanent teeth pulled when I was a child, and then I wore braces. I loathed my braces, but I'm grateful my parents forced me to wear it. I would've had buck teeth without it.

      (I still have dreadful teeth, but at least they're kinda straight. Grin.)

      Removal of beauty marks? Wouldn't national health cover that?

      Delete
    7. Not sure if national health will cover it. Would have to check but I can definitely write it off my taxes in the end. Part of the health expenditures. I did it for my lasik.

      Delete
    8. Ah, national health might not cover it if it falls under "cosmetic surgery".

      Delete
  8. Me needs to take a long visit there!! Haha

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I could move into his little hut permanently and it wouldn't make any difference in my case! ;p

      Delete
  9. That red cap on the make-up Jizō makes him look so stylish, like a renaissance dandy. But looking closer I wonder, is that a shower cap? Oh, but of course. It keeps the white powder off his hair when the make up is being applied. Wait. Jizō don’t have hair.

    I laughed at the salutary method you use to effectively remove from sight unflattering blemishes. Myself, I just don’t bend over when I approach mirrors. Not so good, though, when I have spinach stuck In my teeth and a surfeit of ear and nostril hair I am not cognizant of as I go out in public.

    The E.A. Poe quote reminds me of a favorite Robert Herrick poem referring to disorder in dress.

    Hmm. Whiteness extolled. How long will it be before Japanese youth will take a hint from Venice. It’s a short step from here to here

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for introducing me to that beautiful poem. Subtlety has always been sexier than brazenness, but perhaps that's a very female response. (The participants in shunga are usually fully dressed. Hmm. Interesting.)

      I find it ironic that the world's "white" races only want a good suntan, and the world's "non-white" races only want to be as white as possible. Ah, frailty, thy name is humanity ...

      Delete
    2. Another Herrick poem I was taken with is this one: Upon Julia’s Clothes. I guess I was taking an art history class at the same time as the English class in which I read it so I always think of her silks in the color and texture of the angel’s in the Mérode Altarpiece, but that “liquefaction” had it, in my imagination, less angular and more flowing, a little more spiritually tarnished. Detail here. Wiki article here.

      Delete
    3. It seems that the Edgar Allan Poe quote was actually by Francis Bacon, from his essay “Of Beauty.” But of course, one would be correct to say the quote was from Poe if he had been quoting Bacon, I suppose.

      Delete
    4. I'm breaking all Africa Time records with this reply, but my work schedule has really gone bonkers. I read your comments, I read about Julia and her garments, I read the Wikipedia article ... I just didn't comment.

      Liquefaction has a very bad association in my living-in-quaking-Japan mind.

      Francis Bacon? Thanks for pointing that out! Where would us writers be without plagiarism? ;)

      Delete
  10. I never knew there were temples like that! So interesting... But since both men and women care a LOT about their appearance in this country, I'm actually not that surprised :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I noticed this emphasis on appearance as soon as I arrived in Japan. Where I come from, we're extremely au naturel. I still am. :)

      Delete
  11. This post brings so many things that I have learned but would span hundreds of pages of links to old articles!

    One thing I must say, I have had cosmetic surgery. Not something you'd think really quickly. It is something you see all the time, but it is invisible. Something known to those who get the surgery done but others look right through it. It's in plain sight too. I'll let you think about that a second.

    "There is no exquisite beauty without some strangeness in the proportion." – Edgar Allan Poe

    This quote reminded me of how plastic surgery can go so far that... well... it becomes strange.

    Real Life Barbie meets Ken
    Warning, scary pictures there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry about the late response, but I've been insanely busy.

      Invisible? Plain sight? Look right through it? Right, let me play Sherlock and deduce it was laser eye surgery? :)

      Plastic surgery? No, thanks, I'd rather spend money on books than boobs.

      PS: Google "Jocelyn Wildenstein".

      Delete
    2. Yes, you deduced it correctly. ;)

      PS: Jocelyn Wildenstein? The lioness? Knew of her before. :D

      Delete
    3. You know very strange women ...

      Delete
  12. When I was young, some girls wanted to have sunburned faces but now people turn to whitening in order to health. Our mind's power may work into good way for us. So that temple had an eye on people want to become white. It's clever.
    Have a nice weekend!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can change my skin colour fairly easily, because I'm normally blue-eyed fair, but I tan quite quickly. Right now, though, I'm blue with cold. :p I'm sooo tired of winter! :(

      Delete
  13. Jizo for beauty as well, that's interesting..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bananaz! Long time no talk, but it's always so lekker to hear from you! :) Jizō for everything here in Japan. ^^

      Delete
  14. I suspect I've missed your birthday.. so happy belated birthday... if my grey cells are not working well - happy be-early birthday. Anyway, hope it was or going to be an awesome one!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, you haven't! It's on the 29th, and I'll be one year closer to full-fledged obachan-hood! :D

      Delete
  15. How interesting. Although I can understand why Kabuki actors would want to pray there...wearing thick make-up every day must take a toll on their skin.

    PS: The Jizo itself looks like it could use a day at the spa ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Wearing thick make-up every day must take a toll on their skin." It doesn't seem to stop Tokyo women. >:)

      I need a day at a 露天風呂!To defrost after this snow storm (of the 8th)!

      Delete

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...