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2-13-18 Higashi
Kiryu, Gunma

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On Higiri-Jizo (Higiri Bodhisattva) feast days, the Kannon-In temple grounds are thronged with people.
Kannon-In is a Hozan Branch Shingon Sect Buddhist temple. The main temple is dedicated to the Bodhisattva, Kanzenon. The temple was first established in 1644 and relocated to its current site in 1662.

During a great fire around the year 1789 or 1790, the main temple and its hall burned, leaving no records. The gravesite of Moto Iwamoto (the younger sister of Kazan Watanabe (1793-1841), a painter and scholar of Western learning, and a painting by Issen Iwamoto, the nephew of Moto, hangs in the temple. This painting, entitled "Shaka Nehan Zu" has been designated an important cultural asset by the city of Kiryu. It was painted on paper in the Nanga style in 1864. Issen died four years later.
The wooden transom (ranma) in the temple is also well worth viewing.

The Higiri-Jizo Fair and its History

Have you ever heard of or seen a stone statue of O-Jizo-sama? This is a popular Buddhist image, sometimes referred to the guardian deity of children. Kiryu's Kannon-In temple in Higashi 2 chome conducts a festival in honor of this Buddhist deity on the 24th day of every month. Here is the history of this interesting custom:

Once, long ago, there was a weaver who was greatly troubled because a monster appeared in his house every night. One night, though, he decided to shoot a rifle at him, but the monster was not to be found, not even his shadow. When it grew light enough to see, the weaver discovered some drops of blood, but they disappeared in the garden of Kannon-In temple. A few nights later, the weaver saw O-Jizo-Sama in a dream. The Jizo said to him, "I stand outside your house every night to protect you. But because I stand outdoors, the people don't believe in me. I want you to build a temple for me so that I can protect many people. Then, if you set aside a special day each month, I promise to fulfill the prayers of anyone who prays to me on that day."

As a result, many contributed to the building of this temple and conducted Buddhist services there as they were instructed.

This tradition from long ago persists to the present, and O-Jizo-Sama is honored every 24th of the month at Kannon-In Temple. On festival days, the street is closed to traffic, and flowers, seafood, and other products are sold along with tako-yaki and other popular festival foods.

Not only local citizens, but also people from Saitama and Tokyo come to the festival. Those coming on the Jomo Dentetsu can rent bicycles sponsored by Higiri Jizo Committee.

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