About one hundred meters north from the Mimeguri Shrine, you can find the Kofukuji Temple, which enshrines Hotei (Budai), a god of the Seven Gods of Fortune.

 

It is a branch temple of the Obakusan Manpukuji Temple, which is the head temple of the Obaku Buddhist School of Zen, located in Uji City, Kyoto. In 1673, Kofukuji was opened by Tetsugyu, one of the greatest monks of the school. The Obaku School is famous for its Chinese-style Zen, and that is why Kofukuji is featured with Chinese architecture: multiple roofs, "orbs" on the main ridge, shibi (ornamental roof tiles on the both ends of the ridgepole), bellow-like ceilings of the eaves, narrow frames of the doors, round windows on the both sides of the main building, Getsu-dai (moon viewing platform) in front, and Chinese poetry boards hanging on the pillars, etc.

 

On the right hand entering the temple precinct, there is a hokora (small shrine) that worships "Jijibabason" (God of the elderly father and mother). It is said the stone statue was made by the monk called Fugai during the Kanei era (1624-1644) because he pitied he was not able to care his own parents when training himself on Mt. Manaduru in Kanagawa. Later the statue was transferred to Kofukuji. Since the statue represents the parents of Fugai (his name literally means "Wind Out"), it is well worshiped as god preventing the common cold (shown by the kanji "Wind Evil"); it is believed the father is good for a sick throat, and the mother helps cure coughs.

 

There are a lot of graves of famous people such as the tomb of Ikeda Kanzan, who was a Confucian scholar during the late Edo period. Kofukuji has been a famous temple in Tokyo since its foundation and thought to be one of the beauty spot in Mukojima. The wooden statue of Hotei, who is much related to Zen Buddhism, has been enshrined in the main building; it attracted the attention of writers and artists visiting Sahara Kiku's Hyakkaen Garden, and they started to praise it as one of the Sumidagawa Seven Gods of Fortune.

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Hotei-son was a Chinese Zen monk called Keishi, who lived in the Tang dynasty. One of the Seven Gods of Fortune, Hotei is considered to be the only god that derived from a real person. It is said he had a wide forehead and a large belly, and always carried a walking stick and a big cloth bag that kept things donated by people. If he found someone in need, he gave alms from the bag, and the legend says he never ran out of the presents inside. Respected and worshiped by many people, he was called Hatsuzai (Property Losing) Bosatsu, and also rumored to be a second birth of Miroku Bosatsu (Maitreya).

 

His innocence, unselfishness and generosity made him popular among children. As people wished happiness and sympathized with him, he became one of the Seven Gods of Fortune.

 

Hotei is a god showing us that happiness is not always equal to satisfying our desire for money and material.

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