Fukagawa-Fudo was built in 1882, and has enshrined the statue of Fudo-myoou which is one of the Buddhist statues and slays devils.On the 1st, 15th and 28th of each month, the fairs are held around the temple. Fukagawa-Fudo is not an independent temple. It actually belongs to Naritasan Shinshoji, which is maybe 60 kilometers away, near Narita airport. One time, the temple sent a statue of Fudo to Edo (now known as Tokyo), and it attracted lots of followers there as well. Finally, in 1881, the Fudodo or Hall of Fudo was constructed in Fukagawa, Tokyo. The hall burned twice in the great earthquake of 1923 and again in WWII. However, the statue was moved to safety. The old main hall, rebuilt sometime after the war, is a very traditional hand-built temple with a tatami floor. The goma fire ceremonies at the Fudodo attracted many worshippers. There were some goma ceremonies in a day, with everyone’s sitting on the tatami floor. The sound of the chanting and the large Taiko drum are quite impressive, even it can be heard from outside.
Photo by author
You are asked to remove footwear before entering, and to carry them with you in a plastic bag. The goma ceremonial space is rather lofty, with the famous statue of Fudo (which is not really very big) high up on the wall. There are elaborate canopies of gold hanging decorations–these are among the traditional features of the otherwise very modernistic hall. As you approach the ceremonial space, you discover four or five spacious tiers of benches. There is also a tatami area just in front of the altar area, which could be used by those who want to sit on the floor Japanese style. Actually, those tatamis are black, contributing to the brooding darkness.There are four or five ceremonies every day, so you don’t have to worry too much about the timing. You can inscribe special prayer sticks to be burned in the ceremony, although I never have. The ceremony starts with a clangorous large bell, calling the congregants. Then, a small handbell is rung as the chief priest and assistants enter in procession. Some of the assistants are blowing shell trumpets as they walk. Once the chief priest is seated in front of the altar, there are some preliminary prayers and dedications (these can also be requested by anyone). Then, the four huge taiko drums are sounded for the start of the fire ceremony. These drums actually cause the floor to vibrate. The priest does all his esoteric moves as the fire is built up. A lay assistant brings sacred tablets to be purified by passing them above the flames. The drum sounds along with the rhythm of the sutra chanting. At a certain point, the lay assistant invites the congregants to bring personal objects like handbags to be passed above the flames. Remarkably, even with all the chanting and ritual, the ceremony ends after about 30 minutes, as the last embers die away on the altar.
photo by author
There is still much to see here after the ceremony. There is a ‘corridor of prayer’ that runs under the main altar, so you can feel the power of the Fudo image above you. The passage is lined with prayer beads and maybe some 1000s of Fudo statues. In the next building, there are many more altars and statues of Fudo and other deities. If you go up to the fourth floor, you can admire a huge ceiling painting of Dai Nichi Nyorai, the Cosmic Buddha! Fukagawa-Fudo is located in the part of Tokyo called Shitamachi, or downtown, a flat area, partly land reclaimed from Tokyo Bay. It was the center of middle-class culture in the old days–there is still a geisha district here. So there are many traditional shops selling sweets, crackers and other snacks, so a visitor could easily spend half a day or more in this area. As special as these cultural attractions are, I am sure the locals are very appreciative of having the Fudoson in their neighborhood. You will be surprised with beautiful and very sacred place, for sure. Please check it out!