Standing beside the main hall of Hozen-ji, Budai was smiling happily in the empty precincts

Budai of Hozen-ji Temple
Budai at Hozen-ji Temple
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A short distance from the old Tokaido highway, I found an unexpectedly large space. This was the precincts of Hozen-ji Temple of the Jodo sect, which stands at the northern end of Shinagawa-juku. It is a Buddhist temple with a long history, but the precincts were deserted and there were no worshippers anywhere. Only the main hall stood at the end of the stone-paved approach. There was nothing to suggest that the temple was trying to increase the number of visitors by claiming some kind of worldly benefit, or that it was trying to attract more visitors by highlighting its cultural assets such as the seated statues of Honen Shonin and Amida Nyorai. It is a very simple Buddhist temple.

As I approached the quiet main hall, I thought I heard a laughing voice, which was incongruous in the quiet precincts. The owner of the voice was a statue of Budai standing casually in front of the main hall. Of course, the stone statue was not laughing. But he was smiling with such a good face that I thought I could hear it.

The model for Budai is a legendary Buddhist monk who is said to have existed from the end of the Tang Dynasty to the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period. It is said that he always carried a large sack with a big drum belly and wandered around the city asking for donations and putting the gifts he received in the large sack. Although his appearance was eccentric, he had a mysterious power to make people feel full of joy, which is why he was depicted in paintings and poetry.

It is not clear how he became one of the seven gods of good fortune in Japan. In any case, the smile of Budai standing in Hozen-ji Temple was a smile that taught me not to smile because it is fun, but to smile for fun, even if the temple grounds are deserted.

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Shooting Date

Aug 2020

Posted On

May 19, 2021

Modified On

August 22, 2023


Shinagawa, Tokyo


Still Life Photography



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