Location: Downtown Sendai
Exploring Sendai City's Shrines and Temples
I guess, it is not a secret for everyone that Sendai city is changing constantly. I still remember several old houses that had been demolished lately, or a good restaurant that disappeared somehow, but looking at some old photos, I see absolutely different Sendai, that I would like to know better. And it always makes me wonder - how recognizable for us would be 19th century Sendai, or 18th century Sendai if we had a chance to visit it?
But, in fact, we don’t have to go so far to see Sendai that we are completely not used to. How about meeting the spiritual side of Sendai center? Yes, that same Sendai station area, arcades, business area around Trust tower have some hidden spots where people used to come to pray for success and happiness.
First of all, although today buddhist temples of Sendai are almost entirely situated quite a long walking distance from the center, at least one of them, and an important one, is hiding in Honcho, just a five minute walk away from the arcades.
If you go inside the small gates of Manganji, you will find a decent temple with a little sanctuary near the entrance and stone buddhist statues, gathered under one roof. The temple itself is a part of the famous Sendai pilgrimage course of 33 bodhisattva Kannon statues. The legend says that the statue that is being enshrined in Manganji, used to belong to Empress Kōmyō - a devout adherent of Buddhism. This statue is hibutsu - it means that no one except the priest of the temple is allowed to see it, so, unfortunately, we simply have to believe that it is there.
If you walk into the arcades, you will find another important spot for Sendai buddhists - Mitakisan Fudōin.
This place is a temple, too, dedicated to Fudō Myoō - a protector of Buddhism. Fudō make look a little bit fierce with his gloomy face expression, enormous sword in his hand and surrounded by burning flames, but in fact he is very kind towards those who need his protection. You can turn to Fudō whenever you have some harsh times, or when you are overloaded with work and study and you need more strength to get over it.
One more deity enshrined here is rather peculiar. Sendai Shiro, a deity of trade and economic success, was a real person. As a young boy, he suffered a brain injury, and since then became mentally disabled, but somehow he was said to bring prosperity to the shops or cafes he visited. I can bet that you have seen his picture many times - they are being kept in almost every Sendai shop, or izakaya, or any other place relying on customers.
Arcades hide another power spot that is worth visiting (especially if you are still in search for your ideal person). Nonaka jinja, a small shinto shrine, is dedicated to two kinds of prayers - en-musubi or fate-connection prayers and prayers for success in business. Some of people who come to pray there regularly say that there is something similar between these two things - love and business connect people, and only when both sides are satisfied they can be happy.
The shrine is very much beloved by the owners of the nearby shops, but if you read the ema - small wooden plaques with private prayers written on them, that are hanging in the corridor leading to the shrine, you will see all kinds of desires written on them. Maybe it is a good idea to add your own in there.
Near the always busy Trust tower, there is a very charismatic sanctuary, dedicated to celestial buddha Dainichi-nyorai (Vairocana) - the protector deity of those who were born in the years of monkey and goat. The place is clearly to locate due to its’ red lanterns.
The sanctuary had burned down twice - the first time was when the great fire occurred in 1919 and the next one was due to the Bombing of Sendai during World War II. The sanctuary that we see today was restored in 1953, but it somehow preserves that spirit of ancient times. Besides, this is a beloved place for many salarymen working near it.
By the way, shrines and temples are usually situated on mountains, and although there are no mountains in the center of Sendai, it is not a big problem to find a high building, isn’t it? And at least two buildings in Sendai (there are rumours about others, too) have enshrined deities on their rooftops.
One of them is Fujisaki. In the old times, Fujisaki used to be called Ebisu-ya, after a deity of fishermen and luck - Ebisu. Even after changing its’ name, Fujisaki hasn’t lost the connection with Ebisu, one of the Seven Gods of Fortune. The shrine on top of Fujisaki is easily approachable, and after praying to the always smiling Ebisu, you can sit down in the Beer Garden and drink a glass of Ebisu beer to be sure that your luck is really coming to you.
There is one more shrine on the rooftop of Forus Sendai - Warei Jinja. It is associated with Date clan and its’ purpose is to ensure the prosperity of Sendai and the well-being of Sendai citizens. To visit the shrine, you have to make a request at the information desk, but in summer Forus Sendai opens their own rooftop Beer Garden, so from 16:00 you can combine a shrine visit with a nice glass of beer.
Although it may seem sometimes that there is nothing sacred among the city center’s rush, but you just need to look closely. Indeed, sacred is not so far away from our everyday lives.