Untapped Kumamoto

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Kihara Fudoson Temple(木原不動尊) in Minami-ku, Kumamoto City ~Famous for Glaring Fudo Myoo Statue and Fire Walking~

It is sometimes said(a little bit cynically) that in Japan when a baby is born, parents bring a baby to a Shinto shrine to get him or her purified. When children grow up, many of them have a wedding at a Christian church. Then when people die, most of the time people have Buddhist-style funeral.

To be honest, I don’t know much about religion but personally if it is comfortable to be in a shrine, a temple or a church, that place will be our place where we can get back peace in our mind and we can always come back, no matter where we belong.

I hadn’t really visited temples until I met a friend who is a vice priest of one temple in Kumamoto city. (I will introduce the lovely temple later.). He and his monk friends have been working on promoting “Open Temple” across each sect of Buddhism. They collaborate and hold events like writing chants, tea ceremony, yoga, exhibitions aiming for welcoming locals and also people who don’t visit temples much like me. They wish their temples to be a place to connect communities and people.  

木原不動尊(Kihara Fudoson Temple)

Today, I’d like to share with you 木原不動尊(Kihara Fudoson Temple) in Minami-ku(Southern part), Kumamoto City. It stands just 5-minute walk from 六殿神社(Rokuden Shrine) which I introduced in the last article. My friends and I visited there last January after visiting Ukishima Pond and Rokuden Shrine. It was such a beautiful morning and I saw some locals kept coming to talk to the priest and enjoy taking a walk in the ground of temple.

Let’s get to know about Kihara Fudoson Temple and what we can enjoy there.

Kihara Fudoson Temple(木原不動尊) in Minami-ku, Kumamoto City

Learn about Kihara Fudoson Temple(木原不動尊)

木原不動尊(Kihara Fudoson Temple) is a temple of 天台宗(Tendaishu, means Tendai sect of Buddhism). Official name is “雁会山 長寿寺(Gankai-zan Choju-dera)” but it is  commonly called Kihara Fudoson because it stands in the area called 木原(Kihara).

Guardian gods of Buddha at Kihara Fudoson Temple

Another Guardian god of Buddha at Kihara Fudoson Temple

One of the famous thing about Kihara Fudoson is its 不動明王像(Fudo Myoo statue) which is considered to be one of the best 3 Fudo Myoo statues in Japan. It is said that in the past people suffered from draught in the area. People visited Kihara Fudoson Temple and prayed in front of Fudo Myoo statue. People prayed days and nights and after a while, it started to rain. So this Fudo Myoo statue is also called as “水引不動(Mizuhiki Fudo)”, means Fudo Myoo who brings rain.

Statue of 水引不動(Mizuhiki Fudo)
Source : 木原不動尊

By the way, you may have heard “不動明王(Fudo Myoo)” at a temple but do you know what is it? It is said that Fudo Myoo is Shiva who is one of the principal gods of Hinduism. Most statues of Buddhism show warm and kind expression but Fudo Myoo statues present horrific expression. This is because Fudo Myoo eradicates the root of evil to protect people. He is so severe against evil but merciful to good people.

Kihara Fudoson Temple doesn’t have 檀家(Danka, means parishioners) and cemetery. So basically it works like shrines where people visit and and make a wish. From early morning to evening, the priest stays in the temple so locals and people from around many places visit there and talk to the priest about their wishes and worries in their lives.

Hiwatari(火渡り) ~ walking barefoot over burning woods ~

What is the most famous attraction about Kihara Fudoson Temple must be 火渡り(Hiwatari) means fire walking. Fire walking is a part of training to practice Buddhism and monks walk barefoot over burning woods(I heard in some cultures around the world have fire walking.).

Fire Walking at Kihara Fudoson Temple
Source : 木原不動尊

At Kihara Fudoson Temple, they carry out fire walking wishing for good health, safety of your family, success of business, etc. Fire walking is carried out safely and properly so they don’t get burned(of course, it’s possible after many training!). After performing fire walking by monks, audience can try walking on live burning charcoal! It is said that if you can finish it, then you will have many lucks for a whole year. 

The festival is held on 28th February every year. At this event, Kihara Fudoson Temple opens 本尊(Honzon, means the principal object of worship) to the public and there will be some stalls so many people visit and the area gets lively.

What else can we visit near Kihara Fudoson Temple?

Rokuden Shrine(六殿神社) in Minami-ku, Kumamoto City

Rokuden Shrine stands close to Kihara Fudoson Temple and it takes about 7 minutes on foot. Rokuden Shrine is famous for the vivid vermillion Tower Gate which is registered as Important Cultural Property. You will see the beautiful architecture which was built with no nails. Check the article below and get to know about Rokuden Shrine more!

Ukishima Pond(浮島) and Ukishima Kumamomasu Shrine(浮島熊野坐神社) in Kashima Town(嘉島町) 

Ukishima Shrine is famous for the stunning sunrise which is presented with fog, pond, mountain and birds. To see this sunset, there are some conditions but you can enjoy this beautiful Ukishima pond at anytime of the year. Ukishima Pond generates 150,000 tons underground water in a day and is noted as one of the best 100 water in Japan. There is a shrine called Ukishima Kumamomasu Shrine on a peninsula where two major gods in Japanese mythology are enshrined. It takes about 20 minutes by car from Kihara Fudoson Temple. We visited there last January and our trip was visiting Ukishima to see sunrise and going to Rokuden Shrine and Kihara Fudoson Temple. We finished everything at around 11am and had lunch and went back home. You can travel casually for only a half day(You have to wake up early to see sunrise, though…). Check the article below and learn about Ukishima before visiting it!

Visit Kihara Fudoson Temple and get back peace in your mind.

On the way back to the parking in front of Rokuden Shrine, we came across this scenery.

People gathered and assembled bunches of bamboo and wood. I spoked to a man and he explained that it was “どんどや(Dondo-ya)”. Usually, it’s called “どんど焼き(Dondo-yaki)” but people in Kumamoto call it Dondo-ya. During New Years, Japanese people put some special decorations made of straw, usually on the door of main entrance. After the period, local people gather the decorations from their home and burn them together. Usually, people have Dondo-ya on 14th or 15th January. After burned down, people grill rice cake with live charcoal and it is said that if you eat the rice cake, you will be healthy for a whole year. It’s always nice to get a glimpse of local’s customs.

There are many shrines and temples around Japan. As I said at the beginning, I don’t know much about religion but every time I visit them, I see how locals interact with them and take care of them well. It shows shrines and temples are important part of our lives and also places where we can always come back to get peace in our mind. Shrines and temples are open to anyone at anytime. I wish you will find your comfortable place in Kumamoto when you come here next time.

For now, please stay safe and take good care of yourself and your loved ones.


Official Website of Kihara Fudoson Temple(木原不動尊)


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テーマの著者 Anders Norén
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