Author: Richard Perkins
Photos/Videos Taken: 2020/12/29・2022/09/02
Address: 390 Kinencho, Higashiyama-ku,
Part of the Shingon sect of Buddhism, 金剛寺（八坂庚申堂）—kongōji (yasaka kōshindō)—is a Buddhist temple in the city of Kyoto, Kyoto prefecture that’s referred to as a 三庚申 (sankōshin), one of three 庚申 (kōshin) temples in Japan. This is a temple that passes on the Chinese Kōshin religion. Along with this temple, there’s the Shitennō-ji Kōshindō temple in Osaka prefecture and the Iriya Kōshindō Temple (Onoterusaki shrine) in Tokyo.
The word 庚申 (kōshin) is made up of two characters, both of which correspond to animals in the zodiac. The first character 庚 (kanoe) refers to a rat, and the second character 申 (saru) refers to a monkey.
Based upon the Chinese Taoism that preaches 三尸 (sanshi), the idea that there are bugs inside one's body, the kōshin religion is made up of several customs and beliefs from Buddhism, Shinto, 修験道 (shugendō—a religion which involves finding supernatural powers, saving themselves and the masses through various religious-based training in mountains), and Japanese folk beliefs.
There’s an interesting custom at Kongōji temple. At many Buddhist temples and Shintō shrines across Japan, you write wishes or desires that you’d like to be fulfilled on 絵馬 (ema), a wooden tablet (often with a picture of a horse imprinted on it) that is hung at a designated area in the grounds of the temple or shrine. However, at Kongōji temple you write your wish or desire on くくり猿 (kukuri-zaru), which looks a lot like a round and colorful ball.
The kukuri-zaru behave in whatever way they desire, and it’s said they were a good-luck charm made to restrain the hearts of every selfish person. By holding back from one of your desires and offering your kukuri-zaru to 青面金剛 (shōmen kongō), the deity at Kongōji temple, it’s said that your desire will come true.