Takibiraki, Mt Takao, Tokyo


 At the opening ceremony of Mt Takaofs waterfalls (takibiraki) monks pray for safety of ascetic exercises and mountain worshippers meditate under cascading water to remove pollution and sin from body and mind (mizugori). Many Japanese revere mountains as deities and go on pilgrimages to the mountains in search of enlightenment through austere training.

The devotees will have good luck and they will avoid serious adversity. On the other hand, there is a local belief, especially amongst young adults, where couples who climb Mt Takao will separate shortly thereafter.



The purpose of water training (takigyo) is to identify with Seiryu who is a great blue dragon revered as the guardian deity of water. Water ascetics chant the deityfs name while an attending monk recites a sutra. Loud chanting and clenching hands and fingers in a certain symbolic gesture (mudra) help mind stay focused and away from destructive emotions. A story tells about a man who killed the woman he loved in an attempt to murder her husband. After this experience he purified himself by standing in the icy cold waterfall for 21 days while reciting 300,000 incantations. 

Purification rituals using water is an essential part of Shinto practices. Every shrine provides water for washing the hands and rinsing the mouth before approaching it. There is the myth of the god Izanagi, who follows his consort Izanami to the land of the dead (yomi). After seeing her in a state of decomposition, he returns to the world and purifies himself in a stream. Cleansing his left eye gives birth to the solar divinity Amaterasu. Cleansing his right eye gives birth to the lunar divinity Tsukuyomi, and cleansing his nose gives birth to the storm divinity Susanoo.


Shojin ryori (temple food)


After the opening ceremony monks eat a vegetarian cuisine based mainly on rice, tofu and fresh vegetables (shojin ryori). This kind of food is frequently served in the restaurants which are located near to Zen temples and vegetarian food can also be purchased from many of the temples themselves.



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