Totsuka’s Shrines: Visiting the city’s cemeteries

As I have stated in previous posts, my friend Indy and I have a weird fascination with Japan’s temples. Maybe it was due to the architecture or the seemingly random placement of shrines and temples that reminded me of Latin America’s many random shrines to saints. Perhaps in part this fascination stemmed from an interest in spirits and the occult or the cultural and historical importance of these places to Japan.

Regardless of the reason, while walking around the city where we were studying it was always easy to encounter a new temple or shrine accidentally. Sometimes we would find a shrine or temple in the middle of the forest or right next to a crowded train station. On a Saturday in  November, me and Indy decided to walk around the whole day and see how many we ended up finding.

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Temple overlooking Totsuka

The first temple that we encountered was relatively close to our dorms and had a great view overlooking much of the town, including the railroad. At this temple we were able to walk among family tombs in row after row that descended upwards until being cut off by the bamboo forest on the hill. The entire ambiance of the temple was generally somber and quiet despite the proximity to the city. After finishing here, Indy and I exited through the back of the temple and walked through the bamboo forest’s narrow dirt path.

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The path was pretty straight forward but neither of us had gone through it before so we were surprised to find that after a few minutes we had arrived at yet another temple. The next temple that we visited had much more land than the first and we even ran into another group of study abroad students that happened to be in the cemetery too, weirdos.

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Large family tomb in the second temple grounds

The final temple was just down the street but it was the smallest of the three. At first we thought the steep driveway leading to the temple was actually someone’s house and were reluctant to go up. Eventually we decided to just check it out and we were glad we did. It was here that a Shinto priest saw us and invited us inside the temple. He showed us many different photos and talked about the history of this little temple. While we didn’t understand everything, we understood enough to get the gist of it. The inside of the temple was full of gold-lined items that contrasted with the dark color of the wood furniture and walls of the small little room. The outside was small too with only a few rows of tombs rather than the large spaces of the last two. All in all it was a really weird day but it made for some unique memories.

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Gold-lined temple number 3
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