Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Laundering Money in Kamakura
An hour south of Tokyo is Kamakura, a small seaside town that was the capital of Japan during the 12th and 13th Centuries. Today, the location and surrounding hills (which were the reason for the defensive garrison) are popular with day trippers from the big city. One of the lesser-known shrines is Zeniarai Benzaiten, 20mins up a innocuous street from the station. Eventually, you come to this opening.
Through which is a spooky mine-like tunnel. In 1185, so the story goes, a man by the name of Miramoto Yoritomo had a dream on the day of the snake, during the year of the snake. The god Ugafukujin appeared and told him about a mysterious cave with magic waters, in which he should build a shrine. Not surprisingly, he immediately went out and did just this, first chipping out the tunnel, presumably.
On the far side are some usual shrine buildings, large incense burners, and a small altar stage - all enclosed within a secluded cave grotto. Further on is a low gap in the cliff-face, and it`s here that the magic waters of Ugafukujin are located.
Shintoism is an animist religion, with many, many facets and components. As such, small shrines (not temples, those are Buddhist) are located all over the islands of Japan, many having a specific role or worshipping an exact deity. Zeniarai Benzaiten is all about magic money. And you don`t stand off and watch monks or priests doing their thing here, you roll up the sleeves and take part.
In a nutshell, any money (coins or notes) you wash in the magic water will become sacred. In the words of the god - "If you spend money that has been washed in the spring`s water, it will increase many times and come back to you". So the faithful such as myself grab a small reed basket, tip in some Yen, and get dunking...
But don`t worry, it dries naturally (credit cards not accepted).
There were no instructions on how long to leave the cash in contact with the lucky water, so I gave it a few extra seconds, just to be on the safe side.
I`ll be spending this later, and will be very sure to monitor exactly how much comes back to me. I`ll keep you posted...