Visit the Miyako Shichifukujin in Kyoto and Collect the Gohoin Stamps! (Part 1: Gyogan-ji Temple)
The Miyako Shichifukujin Meguri is a pilgrimage in Kyoto to the 7 temples and shrines of the Shichifukujin (Seven Lucky Gods). It's really popular, since you can collect Gohoin stamps at each spot! This is the first part of a series where local college students introduce the charms of Miyako Shichifukujin. This part features Gyogan-ji Temple in Kawaramachi, Kyoto!
Mar 07 2019 (Apr 15 2020)
What is Miyako Shichifukujin?
The Shichifukujin is a collective name given to the 7 deities that are believed to bring good fortune. The group consists of Ebisu, Daikokuten, Bishamonten, Benzaiten, Fukurokuju, Juroujin, and Hoteison. These 7 deities have been widely worshipped throughout Japan since ancient times. The Shichifukujin Meguri is the term used for making a pilgrimage to the temples and shrines that are affiliated with those deities in order to receive their blessings for good fortune. Among all the Shichifukujin pilgrimages in Japan, Miyako Shichifukujin in Kyoto is believed to have the longest history.
This is the stamp board where you keep your Gohoin stamps from each shrine.
This is the completed stamp board.
The map below shows the 7 designated temples and shrines of the pilgrimage. Each place has a special stamp board that you can collect the stamps on. There's a belief that you will be granted blessings especially at the beginning of the year, so tour buses tailored to fit the pilgrimage operate in January, with many people going on Shichifukujin pilgrimages every year.
About Gyogan-ji Temple
Located in the southeast of Kyoto Gyoen National Garden, Gyogan-ji Temple is a temple founded in 1004 by a Buddhist monk named Gyoen Shonin.
Before Gyoen Shonin became a monk, he went hunting and shot a doe with an arrow, but it gave birth to a fawn from the wound. The doe licked and cared for the blood-covered fawn without paying any mind to her own injury, and died soon after. Having witnessed the scene, he deeply regretted all the killings he committed in his life up to this point, and went on to become a Buddhist monk. Since then, the monk dressed in the skin of the dead deer and was called the Deerskin Saint. Gyogan-ji Temple is also known as Kawa-do (Temple of Skin) for this reason.
Gyogan-ji Temple has been honored as a well-known temple in Kyoto since its foundation. It has been burned down and relocated due to wars and fires several times, but has always been restored by enthusiastic followers with a spot in the central part of the city. There are a lot of small temples in the precincts of the temple with a history of over 1,000 years, and one of them worships Jurojin, one of the Shichifukujin.
Jurojin is China's Laozi in the shape of an enchanted figure after he ascends to the upper realm. He is also said to be the Taoist deification of Canopus. One distinct feature of Jurojin is that he is accompanied by a 3,000-year-old deer, and it is believed that he brings fortune in the areas of money, children, health, and longevity.
Jurojin is enshrined in Jurojin Shindo. It is a small temple within Gyogan-ji Temple that is visited by many people who wish for longevity.
Chintakureifu Jindo is another small temple you should check out here. Enshrined here is Chintakureifu-jinm, who is a deity that protects the peace and prosperity of the household. It is said that the deity is the deification of Polaris, thus making it a counterpart for Jurojin, who is the deification of Canopus.
The Atmosphere of the Precincts
Gyogan-ji Temple is located in an urban area, and is surrounded by other buildings nearby. The gate is rather small, but the inside is spacious and has a calm and relaxed atmosphere.
By looking straight ahead with the gate at the back, you can see the Hondo (main temple), which was built in 1815 and registered as a tangible cultural property of Kyoto City. In the main temple, there is a wooden statue of thousand-armed Kannon, which was carved by Gyoen Shonin. The main temple is usually closed, but it becomes open to the public only on the 17th and 18th of January each year.
Other than Jurojin Shindo, there is a lot to see in the temple precincts. The picture above is a 3-meter high tower called Kamomyojin no Gojunoto. On the base, a square, circle, triangle, semi-circle, and circle are piled up, and each symbolizes earth, water, fire, wind, and air, respectively.
There is also a bell tower that is registered as a tangible cultural property along with the main temple, and a 100 Jizo Temple which holds many Jizo statues (protectors of travelers and children).
In addition, there is a treasure house that has a Yurei Ema (ghost painting). It is a small, wooden plaque with a painting of a young woman who tragically died. The treasure house is not always open to the public, but around the 22nd to the 24th of August each year, they open it so that everyone can see it.
Collect the Gohoin Stamp!
When you are done paying homage, head over to the stamp building located on the left side of the main temple to collect your stamp!
Since this temple is the first stop on this Miyako Shichifukujin pilgrimage, we picked up a Daigofu (stamp board), too. There are various kinds of stamp boards, as well as stamp books for the pilgrimage and a hanging scroll. For this time, we bought a stamp board that cost 2,300 yen. This includes the first stamp, the Jurojin stamp, which was placed in the middle of it.
Gyogan-ji is also part of another pilgrimage, the Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage, and you can get the stamp for that too. If you are interested, look into other pilgrimages in Japan while you're at it!
Other than that, you can also buy lucky charms for traffic safey and longevity as well (500 yen each).
Hope you enjoyed the first part of the Miyako Shichifukujin Meguri series! Next up is Manpuku-ji in Uji, Kyoto, which is dedicated to the deity Hoteison.
The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.