Sunday, June 21, 2009

Paying a visit to the Peace Pagoda

Joe and I have been making an unofficial effort lately to do a little more exploring in our own backyard. Even after being here for nearly two years, there are still places we have yet to visit even though they are not so far from home.

One such place was the Peace Pagoda, a landmark pictured on the local GetHiroshima tourist map that isn't so much a pagoda as a large silver dome with a steeple on top. On trips around Hiroshima Station, we'd see it perched on the mountainside and wonder what it was all about.

So we finally made the trip there on a recent Saturday. As we began our hike up the mountain, we first came to the unassuming little Toushougu Shrine.

This shrine is supposed to be popular for wishing for prosperity in business and harmony in the home. The thousands of papers you see tied to a gate on the left are omikuji, fortunes received by visitors to the shrine. The belief is that tying the fortunes to this structure will make the good fortunes come true, or kill a bad fortune. On the right, you see a bunch of wooden boards called ema. Visitors write their wishes on these boards and tie them up in hopes that they'll come true.

More ema behind the shrine, along with a place to purify your hands.

Inside the shrine, a Shinto priest was performing a service during which he seemed to bless a young man and woman. After the service was finished, they went outside and the priest did a little ritual with their car.

He kept shaking this stick with white strips of cloth hanging off it. I thought perhaps it was customary for Japanese people to have new cars blessed at the shrines, but when I asked co-workers about it, they said no. So maybe it's just this couple.

Continuing on up the mountainside, we went through a tunnel of torii gates reminiscent of the Fushimi-Inari Taisha shrine complex that we visited last year in Kyoto.

Pausing at one spot, we were rewarded with sweeping views of the city and the Seto Inland Sea. Sometimes it's easy to forget how close we are to the sea here, but when you get up on the mountainside it's always a beautiful sight to see the islands.

A little more climbing and we made it to the Peace Pagoda. Some hippy was up there beating away on some drums (figures) but I couldn't locate him before he packed up his stuff and skedaddled when some raindrops started to fall.

So here it is, the Peace Pagoda:

I thought it looked better from far away. The view was more interesting than the landmark itself. Also perhaps more interesting is the story behind the Peace Pagoda.

The placard at the site informed us "The Peace Pagoda was erected in 1966 as a prayer for everlasting world peace and the repose of those souls sacrificed in the atomic bombing. The pagoda houses two gifts containing ashes of the Buddha, one presented by a group of Mongolian Buddhists. It also contains tens of thousands of memorial stones, each stone representing a prayer for peace offered by a resident of Hiroshima Prefecture."

A close-up of the Buddha inside the pagoda.

I also discovered that the Peace Pagoda actually has its own Wikipedia page, which offered more background. It says that the pagoda was built under the guidance of a Buddhist monk named Nichidatsu Fujii, who founded his own order of Buddhism. The monk was inspired to devote his life to promoting non-violence after meeting Mahatma Gandhi in 1931, and in 1947 began constructing these Peace Pagodas around the world as shrines to world peace. There are 80 of them in the world in Europe, Asia and the U.S. In the U.S., you can see Peace Pagodas in San Francisco; Leverett, Massachusetts; Grafton, New York; and the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.

Neat, huh. Maybe we'll see another one someday.


nancha2005 said...

HI, as an MEF (pre-JET) of long ago, I was thrilled to read your webzine. I was in Hiroshima before there were faxes and of course internet, but we managed to put together newsletters and share our funny stories with the 75 or so teachers in our group nationwide at the time. The funny English, the wit and humor is what kept us going. And I see that continues today. I have climbed up to that pagoda too! Thanks for sharing! Nancy B, Hiroshima-ken 1982-84

Gail said...

Thanks for reading and commenting, Nancy! I'm glad you enjoy the blog.

JxS said...

Hi there, I´m going to visit Hiroshima soon and would like to check this view. Can you give pagodas location, or maybe a googlemaps link? Thanks!

Gail said...

Hi JxS,
Go to Google Maps and type in the following number:

34.405878, 132.47793

This should pop up a Google map so you can see where the Peace Pagoda is. It's not far from JR Hiroshima Station. Good luck and enjoy your trip!