Translated by Satomi Ohba
【SUMMER】”Senkou-Temple” Hell Thriller in Osaka Hirano
Written by Atsuko Yagura
Scary stories can chill you out on a hot summer day, without air conditioners or fans. In Sennkou-ji(全興寺), which is also called hell temple, you can have both a thriller and a little smile.
Let’s go experience what hell is like in Senkou-ji!
1300 years ago, a historical person called Shotoku Taishi established a healing Buddha temple in Hirano(*1). This temple is said to be the origin of Senkou-ji, as a town spread out and thrive, with the temple in the middle. Senkou-ji is a temple with long history.
(*1) a Buddhism temple that worships Buddha of healing, therefore gives you good luck on health.
Let’s Go Visit Hell!
Senkou-ji appears out of nowhere after a 15 minute walk from Hirano station. A temple indeed, but it blends in ell with the downtown shopping street.
So, let’s take a look inside. First, we will go to the main building. There was a sign in the temple precincts saying “Please pray in the main building first”. It might be that many people just look around and not pray in the main building.
Some beautiful lotus flowers were in bloom next to the main building.
Now the time has come to go to the hell building (地獄堂). There is a devil sign leading the way. Devils are the symbol of scary things, but somehow, this devil looks cute.
First you ca do a heaven/hell check at the gate. By answering questions such as “Do you think of things in a positive attitude?” you will know whether you will be going to heaven in peace or down to dark hell.
The judgment is in a loud voice. It’s was a bit embarrassing when the announcement blurted out “To Hell!” and people glanced this way.
After the judgment, let’s go see the hell building.
The great king Enma (ruler of afterlife, 閻魔大王) sits in the center you while other demons and judges of hell glare at you.
The powerful figures are made precisely, which is pretty scary. This hell building is very dark, which makes you feel creepy.
“Beat the gong to see hell”. Hit the gong, and the story of hell begins inside the mirror.
This mirror is called the “Johari no Kagami (浄玻璃鏡)”, which show s all the good things or bad things the dead person did in his/her life. So it will show if the dead person is lying or not. When the hell judges knows that the dead person lied, his/her tongue will be cut off…
You will know about hell from the mirror which talks about 10 minutes. It is said that you will go down to hell if you do bad things while alive. The mirror shows you how dreadful hell is, with the mountains of needles and carriages on fire.
Lying, stealing are common sins but the most sinful of all is to die before your parents. The hell guide ends with the message “Don’t do bad things. Value your own life”. There were many fearful things in hell, but maybe this message was what it really wanted to say.
Calm Your Heart in “Heaven (Land of Buddha)”
After having a chill in the hell building, let’s go to “heaven (land of Buddha)”
Going down the stairs, you will be surrounded by 151 stone Buddha statues with a stained glass mandala (*2) in the center. This is a water harp cave (水琴窟), in which you can hear a pleasant splashing sound of water falling into a pot and echoing.
(*2) Artwork that shows a view of Buddhism
Take you shoes off, sit in the center of the mandala, and meditate while hearing the sound of water. The atmosphere is completely different to the hell building and you will nearly forget that this is a temple in the middle of a shopping street.
In the End
“Hell” is used in many idioms, “Buddha in Hell (A friend in need)”, “Living Hell” and is imaged as the place where sinful souls will go, but not known much in detail.
You can learn about the afterlife, hell and think of valuing your own life more. Why not go meet great king Enma, and have a chilly hell experience?
Address: 4-12-21 Hirano Honmachi, Hirano-ku, Osaka
Admission Fee: None
Access: 12 minute walk from JR Kansai Honen Hirano station south exit
/ 12 minute walk from Osaka Metro Tanimachi line Hirano station exit no.4
Official HP: http://www.senkouji.net/