Two remarkable Nio deities guard the entrance
The entrance to Saifuku-ji is accessible from Oiwaya Michi path, located just at the exit of Samuel Cocking Botanical Garden. Two impressive red statues of Nio guardians welcome visitors. The Nio are deities considered as protectors of Buddha and Buddhism. Their aggressive and angry look comes as a contrast with Buddhism's pacifist reputation. On a closer look, the Nio on the right hand opens the mouth, which symbolizes the beginning of the universe, in other words, the apparition of life. The opposite Nio tightly closes his mouth, in a symbolization of the end of the universe, that is to say death.
Visitors should not let those ferocious guardians impress them and feel free to come in the sacred enclosure. Continuing downwards, the main building Hondo is open to visit. Numerous black and white lanterns hide its ceiling, and dozens of small Doji statues are lined up along the dark walls, giving the room a unique, totally mystical atmosphere.
As a matter of fact, Enoshima Daishi temple’s main attraction is to be discovered beside the praying altar. Hidden in the dark room, Japan’s tallest indoor Fudo Myoo statue stands. Initially painted in red, the 6 meters high sculpture is now covered by a thin layer of sooth, that makes it even more impressive.
Attend a Goma fire ceremony for Fudo Myoo
This change in color is due to a ritual named Goma, performed by Saifuku-ji’s priests on the last days of each month. During those ceremonies, a fire is kindled before Fudo Myoo’s statue (one of the five Wisdom Kings, associated with fire and anger), to burn wooden sticks engraved with wishes. This sacred fire is also said to act as a spiritual and psychological cleansing for believers. This ritual is specific to esoteric Buddhism, and is performed in order to destroy negative energies, nefarious thoughts and desires.
The audience enters a state close to a trance amidst the rhythmical hits on taiko drums, the enrapturing melody and voices of priests chanting prayers, and the crackling of the fire. It is a perfect occasion for a memorable spiritual experience.
In addition, it is possible to receive a Goshuin (the temple’s seal and calligraphy) on one’s own shuincho notebook, as well as various lucky-charm amulets. The visit ends in a small outdoor garden with a pond. Enoshima Daishi is a pleasant and interesting discovery that will please those who would like to give their coming on the Dragon Island a spiritual touch.
How to get to Enoshima Daishi
From Enoshima bridge, about 15 minutes walk
Location reachable with the JRP : order your Japan Rail Pass (from ~US$ 281)
Open every day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Call 0466-50-2111 (in Japanese) to know when the Goma ceremonies are to be performed
How long / when to visit
Allow about one hour
江の島大師 (Enoshima Daishi)