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Special report: Hatsuho-ryou

I received a prayer to prevent cancer at Daian-ji Temple.


Overview of Daian-ji Temple

1.History of Daian-ji Temple

Daian-ji Temple stands quietly about a 10-minute walk east from the Daian-ji bus stop, the fourth stop on the bus from JR Nara Station. Although it is a small temple with narrow precincts, Daian-ji is actually the oldest temple in Nara and was once the second largest temple after Todai-ji and one of the seven largest temples in the southern capital.
The Daian-ji Temple was originally located in Fujiwara-kyo (Fujiwara Capital) but was moved to this location when the capital was moved to Heijo-kyo (Nara) and became Daian-ji Temple. It was an official temple, also called Nandaiji, and boasted a large temple complex in the Daianji style.
However, the temple gradually declined, and by the Edo and Meiji periods, all the temple buildings were lost, and the temple was almost abandoned.
After the Pacific War, there was finally momentum for its restoration, and although it is now the smallest of the Seven Great Temples of the Southern Capital with only 1/25th the temple area of its heyday, it continues to be rebuilt as an old temple in the southern capital and a quiet religious space. Originally, as a government-run temple, its major role during the Nara period was to pray for the safety of the nation and the health and happiness of its people.

Gate of Daian-ji Temple
Gate of Daian-ji Temple

2.Highlights of Daian-ji Temple (temple complex, Buddhist statues, and a small Daruma doll in the precincts)

As mentioned above, Daian-ji Temple has no historical buildings that remind us of the past, and the oldest main hall was built in the Meiji era. The oldest main hall was built in the Meiji period (1868-1912). Therefore, there is nothing to see in terms of architecture. On the other hand, however, the main image of the eleven-faced Kannon (Goddess of Mercy) enshrined in the main hall is from the Tenpyo period and is designated as an important cultural property. In addition, there are many important cultural properties such as the standing statue of Bato Kannon, Yoryu Kannon, Sho Kannon, Fuku Kensaku Kannon, and Shitenno statues from the Tenpyo period. It can be said that the highlight of Daian-ji Temple as an old temple is this precious Buddha statue.
Today, Daian-ji Temple is a temple of the Shingon sect of Buddhism, so the precincts are not that large, but there is a pilgrimage to the 88 sand-stepping sacred sites in Shikoku. A small bamboo grove has also been created in connection with bamboo’s sake, which will be explained later, as a way to entertain visitors.

Entrance to the sand-stepping Sacred Sites Tour
Entrance to the sand-stepping Sacred Sites Tour

In addition, "small daruma" dolls, in which omikuji (fortune) tickets have been placed, are placed everywhere to make visitors feel warm and fuzzy. The Miruku-zuka, shaped like a breast in the photo, is said to be good for those who have breast cancer if they stroke it.

  • Stone lantern and Daruma doll
    Stone lantern and Daruma doll
  • Miruku-zuka and Daruma doll
    Miruku-zuka and Daruma doll

Cancer Preventing Prayer Experience

1.Application for Prayer Service

No reservation is required to receive cancer-fighting prayers, and you can apply for the service at the temple office on the day of your visit.
The application form differs depending on whether you are suffering from a disease such as cancer or if you are healthy but wish to pray for the maintenance of good health so as not to suffer from a serious disease such as cancer.
In both cases, the address, name, and age (counted years) are the same, but if you have cancer or other illnesses, you are also required to include any additional information such as surgery, if scheduled. I am in good health, so I applied by filling out the form for those wishing to maintain good health.
In the one-year prayer, if you have cancer and are scheduled to undergo surgery at a later date, you can call the center and ask for another prayer for the success of the surgery. Therefore, many people have been praying for the past one year.
When you fill out the necessary information on this application form and submit it with the prayer fee to the receptionist, you will be given a leaflet with precautions for the prayer and the prayer times. Prayer times are from 10:30, 11:30, 13:30, 14:30, and 15:30 on weekdays, and each prayer time is limited to 20 people. If the number of applicants for the next prayer time is less than 20 at the time of your application, you will be prayed for immediately at the next starting time.

2.Prayer flow

Prayers are held in the main hall. If you do not wish to pray but wish to visit the main hall, you will need to pay an entrance fee.

The Main Hall of Daian-ji Temple
The Main Hall of Daian-ji Temple

Since Daian-ji Temple is a Shingon sect temple, prayers are conducted in accordance with the Shingon sect. In the Nara period (710-794), Daian-ji was a temple of the Sanron sect, one of the six sects of the Nanto sect, but the doctrines of the Sanron sect were difficult to understand, and it was gradually shunned in the latter half of the Nara period. However, it is said that the Sanron sect gave birth to the Shingon and Tendai sects of the next generation. The Sanron sect, which was one of the six academic sects of the Nanto region, was replaced by the Shingon sect, which was closer to the common people, because Kukai devoted himself to deciphering a vast number of sutras in the sutra hall of Daian-ji Temple.

The inner sanctum of the main hall of Daian-ji Temple
The inner sanctum of the main hall of Daian-ji Temple

In the specific prayer by the priests, first the priests sit on the gomadan and strike the instruments laid out in front of them in accordance with the rituals, and then the shomyo (Buddhist chanting) is chanted in a high voice. After about 10 minutes, the address, name, and age of the person receiving the prayer are read out, and prayers for good health are offered to those who are not ill, and prayers for success in surgery are offered to those who are suffering from cancer and have a fixed surgery date. When the name of the person being prayed for is called out, the person goes forward, burns incense, and places his or her hands in front of the main image.
After this, the priests beat drums with both hands while chanting the Hannya Shingyo (Heart Sutra) at a high pitch. The sound of the drums is so powerful that it resonates in the stomach, and a sense of elation wells up in the hearts of the participants, who feel a strong desire to obtain blessings. Finally, the monks go around to the worshippers and place a scripture on each shoulder from behind, transferring the power of the Gohonzon to each of them, thus completing the prayer.
Finally, each person who had received the prayer proceeded to stand in front of the Gohonzon, palms together, and received a small bamboo cup filled with the prayed-for sake or water poured from a bamboo tube. The whole process took less than 30 minutes. I felt elated and refreshed when I left the main hall.

3.Awarding of gifts (Osagari)

Those who have received the prayer are given an omamori (talisman) to wear and an omamori to affix to one's bedroom. In addition, the original of the "Sasazake" (bamboo grass wine) that has been prayed for will be given to the recipient as a gift. You can also take home the bamboo cup from which you received the Sasazake.

Gift received after prayer.
Gift received after prayer.

Cancer banishment festival at Daian-ji Temple

At Daian-ji Temple, there is an opportunity to receive only the prayed-for bamboo grass wine received at the end of the prayers described above. The following is an introduction to this festival.

1.Kounin-kai Cancer-Fighting Sasazake Festival (January 23)

Emperor Kounin, the last emperor of the Nara dynasty, made many visits to Daian-ji Temple when he was a crown prince, where he cut a piece of bamboo to make a sake cup, poured sake into it, warmed it, and enjoyed it gracefully. Emperor Kounin had a very long life for his time and died at the age of 62. This was the origin of the bamboo wine, which is said to be effective for health and longevity. The "Shoku Nihonshoki" (Chronicles of Japan) states that Emperor Kounin's son, Emperor Kanmu, held a memorial service for the first anniversary of his death at Daian-ji Temple. At this festival, people are treated to a special drink made from prayed-for bamboo grass, which is widely known as "cancer-fighting bamboo grass wine.

2.Bamboo Offering on Cancer-Fighting Sasazake Summer Festival (June 23)

Since ancient times, May 13th of the lunar calendar has been regarded as the day of bamboo drunkenness or the day of bamboo offerings in China, as it was believed that planting bamboo would make it grow well. In honor of this legend, the Cancer-Fighting Bamboo Liquor Summer Festival is held on June 23, the same day as May 13 of the lunar calendar. Here, too, the prayed-for bamboo grass wine is given.
On any of the festival days, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., visitors may pay a 500 yen entrance fee to enter the temple grounds to receive the sasazake (bamboo grass wine). Many people visit the temple, and this event is often featured on Kansai TV news.

Access to Daian-ji Temple
  • ・Take a bus bound for Daian-ji, Sharp-mae, or Shiratomachi from JR Nara Station or Kintetsu Nara Station.
  • ・Get off at Daian-ji bus stop and walk 10 minutes (go south in the direction the bus is traveling, turn right at Daian-ji Minami intersection, and go straight.)