Asthma, coughing, hay fever. Anything throat-related.
As a matter of fact, it's said that students of the School of Music at the Tokyo University of Arts, which is nearby, often visit this temple to pray for a divine blessing. That means that a teacher with a wonky voice is another frequent visitor (link).
I've written about Jyōmyō-in (浄名院) before, but it deserves another post. It's unknown, not included in any English guidebook, but it's one of my favourites. It belongs to the Tendai sect and is a sub-temple of the famous Kan'ei-ji (寛永寺), which in turn was constructed to emulate the powerful Enryaku-ji (延暦寺) in Kyoto. It's best-known for its 84 000 statues of Jizō, the protector of mothers, children and travelers.
That number, 84 000, is significant in Buddhism: it's said that Buddha prescribed 84 000 teachings (or dharmas) for the 84 000 afflictions of living beings. All contribute to putting an end to our ignorance.
It's a deeply touching sight: 84 000 statues standing silently, patiently, gently, tolerantly, forgivingly. No questions, no judgment, no anger. I've yet to come across another temple that is so tranquil yet so infinitely sad at the same time. I wrote about the Jizō statues here and here, so let's move on to throaty matters.
It's not entirely clear where the asthma association comes from, except that the temple was in the heart of old Edo and asthma was a common affliction in the low-lying, swampy eastern Tokyo.
The last time I was there, which was last month, I noticed this:
|Hechima or loofah|
See that vegetable? That's a hechima (糸瓜 or ヘチマ).
English-speaking people call it a luffa or loofah and use it as a bath sponge, but in Japan it's known as an edible vegetable with many health benefits. (You can see what the sponges look like in this post by Cocomino.) It's especially popular in Okinawa, where it's called nabera. Here's a recipe for nabera stew with dashi and miso. You can add tofu, tuna and pork if you want a meatier dish.
The fruit is rich in vitamins and minerals, and is used as a cure for asthma and hypertension, and as a diuretic.
The temple grows its own hechima in a higgledy-piggledy garden behind the main building, and it has a special "prayers for asthma day" on 15 August.
I wrote that first Jyōmyō-in post about 18 months ago. Since then I've discovered more books and websites about different benefits at different temples, and my own knowledge of Buddhism has increased marginally.
Eighteen months ago I even got the English spelling wrong – it has two ō or ou sounds – but this time it's correct.
I've realized that's become my new goal. I no longer want to write front-page stories (been there, done that, lost the scrapbook) or be a company director (been there, done that, got the burn-out). All I want to do is discover one new thing every day. Nothing earth-shattering or universe-conquering; just a new word or a new book or a new quirky fact about a quirky temple will do.
|The main entrance of Jyōmyō-in|