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Tuesday, June 8

The Goddess of Mercy

The "Goddess of Mercy of the White Robe" stands prominently on a mountain in Ofuna.  You can't miss her from anywhere in the area, whether you are on a train or on foot.  And yet, if my favorite exploring friend had not been with me when KP and I went to seek her out, I'm not sure if I would have figured out how to get to her.

The path at the foot of the mountain stands hidden behind an unsuspecting neighborhood.  At the entrance is merely a small wooden sign with some Japanese writing on it, of which I obviously cannot read.  My friend said it took her and her mother several laps around the area to figure it out.  And then the climb begins.  Oh my, the climb.  It is steep.  Viciously steep.  And pushing a 30 pound Peanut and his gear up it, well let's just say it wasn't easy.  As we hiked and forced the stroller up the bumpy path, I was grateful that my friend had insisted we pause for lunch prior to the jaunt up.  If we hadn't stuffed ourselves at Goemon (delicious Japanese pasta place, if you are interested), then I am pretty sure my breakfast of Diet Coke would not have been enough for the march.  I surely would have collapsed halfway up and the Peanut would have rolled right over me and back on down the hill.

When we arrived at the top, I was thrilled to see this beautiful statue up close and in person.  Kimono Peanut just liked running up, down and around the circular pathway that surrounds her.

Why is this place so important?  A little history lesson:  The Goddess at Ofuna Kannon-ji was instituted "in general defense of the Fatherland" by Kentaro Kaneko and traditional nationalist Mitsuru Touyama who had been a part in the drafting of the Imperial Constitution (according to info provided at the site).  Building began in 1929, with the Goddess meant to be praying for world peace, but in 1934 when only the outline was completed, war broke out in the Pacific and the place was left to nature's devices for the next twenty years.  In 1954, a newly created society took up the work on construction and completed the project in 1960. 

The site contains stones from ground zero in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, commemorating the souls of those who died in the tragedy of those atomic attacks.  Most visitors to the temple do so regularly for spiritual purposes, but it is said that foreigners seek her out for comfort during their strives with homesickness.  She is meant to carry prayers for peace for those of her home country and those who only call Japan their home for a set amount of time.

I can understand this purpose.  The mountain she sits on is serene, tranquil and offers refuge from the busy city that lies at her feet.  I can see praying for personal peace, as well as peace for the world at large in this obsequious setting.  But I can also hope that it doesn't take a statue to remind us to all to do the same no matter where we are standing.

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