A Temple Steeped in History and Myth
Tanukidani-san Fudo-in is a unique Buddhist temple located in the Ichijoji district in north-east Kyoto. Nestled amidst sacred mountainous surroundings, the temple has been standing for more than 300 years and is dedicated to both the mischievous Tanuki raccoon dog and the fearsome wisdom deity Fudo Myoo.
The temple was founded by monk Mokujiki Shozen Tomoatsu after discovering a natural cave in the area. Today, visitors can find several pavilions scattered throughout the terrain, contributing to an enchanting atmosphere steeped in history.
Inside the main hall of Tanukidani-san Fudo-in, one can find a statue of Fudo Myoo shrouded in darkness, its wrathful visage accentuated by glimmering eyes. Visitors experience a fascinating blend of tradition, spirituality, and mythology throughout this historic temple.
The Intriguing Practice of Shugendō
What sets Tanukidani-san Fudō-in apart from other Buddhist temples is its connection to Shugendō, an ascetic faith that involves nature worship and encompasses various Buddhist, Shinto, and Taoist beliefs.
Translating to “the way to spiritual power through discipline”, Shugendō has its followers called ‘Shugenja’, who practice intense physical endurance exercises as part of their spiritual journey.
The Hiwatari Matsuri Festival: A Fiery Celebration
The Hiwatari Matsuri or Fire Walking Festival is one significant event held every year on July 28 at Tanukidani-san Fudō-in. This festival combines the fire purification rituals (goma) performed year-round at the temple with a spectacular fire walking ceremony.
During Hiwatari Matsuri, goma (wooden prayer sticks) are assembled into a pyre and ritually burned. Shugenja then rake the still-flaming ashes and remnants into a flat surface in preparation for the fire walking ritual.
Led by the Shugenja, who walk barefoot across the hot ground, participants may also partake in this exhilarating experience. The festival not only showcases the fascinating aspects of Shugendō and Fudō Myō’ō worship but also serves as an exciting challenge for those who dare to join in and test their endurance against the heat.
Protection Charms: A Popular Souvenir
Hiwatari Matsuri presents an opportunity for visitors to procure a particular charm believed to protect one’s home from fire damage. Such charms attract many festival-goers, who see them as both a symbol of spiritual protection and a memorable keepsake.
Discovering Tanukidani-san Fudō-in
If you’re seeking an otherworldly experience that combines history, spirituality, and adventure, visit Tanukidani-san Fudō-in during the Hiwatari Matsuri festival, which is considered as one of the exciting Kyoto events in July. Witness this unique event firsthand while immersing yourself in the rich culture of Shugendō at this enchanting Buddhist temple.
Visiting Kyoto during July provides an opportunity to immerse oneself in these festivals’ vibrant traditions and celebrations. From the breathtaking illumination of the Kōdai-ji Tanabata Star Festival to the awe-inspiring fire-walking ritual of the Hiwatari Matsuri Festival, these events provide a look at Kyoto’s extensive cultural heritage.