Japan is full of secrets hidden in plain view. To the casual observer Japan is a conservative and reserved society. Even those “breaking” with conformity tend to gather together and dress alike. But as most Japan insiders know, scratch the surface just a little and shocking secrets can come to light.
I discovered one such secret while visiting a rural Japanese Buddhist temple on the island of Shikoku. While walking the Shikoku Pilgrimage, a 900 mile route which hits 88 Buddhist temples, I stopped for a rest at a simple mountain village temple in Ehime Prefecture. Sitting between Temples 65 and 66, Jofuku-ji Tsubaki-do, is an unassuming and polite temple. Precise cedar beams mirror the thoughtful manicured garden as every detail of the clean temple grounds was carefully planned out. Japanese temples are wonderful places that incorporate the the more mundane concerns of folk religion right alongside the loftier goals of enlightenment.
WARNING: if you’re a statue or a doll below the age of 18 the following content may not be suitable.
As I prayed at the temple steps in front of a golden statue of the Buddha I couldn’t shake the feeling I was being watched. Turning around I found four impeccably dressed statues starting at me.
I looked around to make sure I was alone. I didn’t want to be caught lifting the skirts off of statues after all, talk about an embarrassing conversation to have with a monk. The humid summer day ensured I was the only person crazy enough to be outside at mid-day, so I lifted away and here is their secret.
Fertility and babies were a major preoccupation in historical Japan when the society was based around rice cultivation. As the fertility rates in the cities have plummeted, in recent years population grow has been negative, perhaps there is a lesson to be learned from rural Japan. At the very least it is great that there is such a wonderful sense of humor about the subject.
Feel free to comment and/or leave stories of shocking statues you have found in Japan.