In the middle of the city, the magnificent main gate of No.55 Nanko-bo welcomes pilgrims. Instead of the Nio-statues, the four heavenly kings (Tamon-ten Jikoku-ten, Zocho-ten, and Komoku-ten) are placed. All of the statues are dark brown with gold decorations and they seem very powerful.
Mr. Hirata, who works at the Nokyo-jyo in Nanko-bo, was a very interesting person to talk to. The conversation started by Hirata-san,
“Are you from Saitama Prefecture?”
“I’m from Tokyo.”
“OK, you know, if I would ask people if they’re from Tokyo, then people from either Saitama or Chiba would answer they’re from Tokyo. And are you from Meguro in Tokyo ?”
“No, I’m from Shinagawa.”
“Oh, so you’re from Nishi-Gotanda, around Musashi-Koyama ?”
According to him, he had lived in Tokyo before and seemed to be very familiar with the names around this area. Then, he suddenly called my name even though I didn’t tell him my name. I asked him if he saw my Kongo-zue where I put my name seal on. Then he replied that there are only a few people who write their names on those things, and that sometimes you can’t see the name because of the direction you put it. Hmm, indeed 🙂
We chatted about various things after that. He told me that he knew the person who wrote the temple paintings of the stamp book I have, and that he was actually a western painter. He also said to me that even though he was not a priest and worked part-time at Nokyo-jyo, it was fun for him to talk to people like this, and wanted to cherish each encounter. He then gave me a “Nigiri Kannon”, a hand-held Avalokitesvara and a wooden tag on which the word “I’m on a pilgrimage” was written.
When I was about to leave, he called me my name, so I entered the Nokyo-jyo again. He handed me a map, saying that since the official pilgrimage map might be difficult to understand (actually indeed :)), I should take this map which shows the whole route. At the end, he said, “You speak English, don’t you? What do you recommend to say to foreigners in English? If you would come here again, let’s speak in English”. He was indeed very interesting person to talk to.