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The god who took off with the tofu

Crumbs, cripes and crikey, but it's difficult to get going and start blogging! Partly because I can't get into this new year, but mainly because I start researching a story about a Tofu Jizō, innocently thinking there's only one, and then I realize oh heck no it's actually a thing and maybe I should visit this other temple as well before I write a story but then what about this one oh look here’s another one but it's in Morioka no Ru you can't go to Iwate aaargh.

My new year's resolution, which might last two weeks, is a) to blog more regularly than last year and b) to return to my first love, quirky temples.

So. Tofu Jizō.

Mukashi-mukashi, a long time ago, a man called Kichibei had a tofu shop in Bunkyō-ku, which, in those days, was a wooded area with many wild animals, including foxes and tanuki.

He had many regular customers who collected tofu and left money in a special box. One of them was a young priest, but he seemed to be a shady character: whenever he'd visited, Kichibei found a leaf in the box instead of real money.

This is not the Tofu Jizō. The criminal is behind locked doors;
this is merely a representative.

The shop owner decided to follow the priest, but as soon as they reached the gate of a temple called Kiun-ji (喜運寺), the priest disappeared.

"It's a fox, a shapeshifter, that’s what it is!" thought Kichibei.

When the priest visited the shop again, Kichibei struck him with a big tofu knife. The youngster immediately disappeared, leaving behind his tofu basket, a chip of stone covered in blood, and a trail of blood which Kichibei followed all the way to … Kiun-ji. When he entered, he saw blood flowing from the shoulder of the Jizō statue at the temple.

There you have it: it was the Jizō who dunnit. Why remains a mystery to this day.

The original temple was burned down in World War II, but the statue remains. Not that you can see it: the original chipped statue is currently hibutsu (秘仏), a term that refers to an icon or statue that is concealed from public view for various reasons. There is a statue in front of the temple, but it's not the naughty thief.

 

Maybe they're keeping the culprit locked up to prevent further mischief?

It's a rather mundane temple, and there's no opportunity for pretty pictures, and you'd only go there if you had an odd interest in old stories. As a matter of fact, when I arrived, the front gate was closed. I almost left, but then decided to simply enter. (Doors/gates aren't always locked in Tokyo.) Nobody yelled at me or kicked me out or attacked me with a tofu knife, so I guess it was OK. This is, after all, a temple dedicated to a thief.

Notes

1) My first headline was "the god who tea-leafed the tofu". "Tea leaf" is Cockney slang for thief, and it's a truth universally acknowledged that a writer in possession of a thesaurus must be in want of a new synonym. Also, alliteration and assonance.

2) You recognized that quote, didn't you? Didn't you?! 

3) I have to "gomen nasai" for the rather shabby photos. I visited this temple almost two years ago, and when I finally started scrabbling around looking for photos, this was all I could find. I could swear I took a few of the gate and more of the rather uninspiring temple itself, but … dunno … maybe Jizō pilfered my pix.

Statues in the small graveyard next to the temple
 
This has nothing to do with the Tofu Jizō, but I needed pictures, so ... tiny Jizō statues at a temple in Chichibu.

More tiny Jizō statues at a temple in Chichibu

Sources

History of Tofu and Tofu Products (965 CE to 2013) by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi

Japanese website: http://www.saiseki.net/temple/temple_49_02.html

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