Photo/IllutrationOne of the auxiliary temples of Kawasaki Daishi, also known as Heikenji temple, is dedicated for safe driving and road safety. (Photo by Lisa Vogt)

  • Photo/Illustraion

Kukai, known by the honorific Odaishi-sama, or Kobo Daishi, wrote in “Henjohokki Shoryoshu”: “Although it is said that it is impossible to be disturbed by anything upon reaching enlightenment, I could not help but cry upon bidding farewell to a loved one.”

For you folks who get behind the wheel, you wouldn’t want to be responsible for something so serious that the Grand Master himself would shed tears, now would you.

Kawasaki Daishi (officially known as Heikenji temple) worships Kukai. It consists of several structures that make it look pretty much like any other major temple: there’s a walkway lined with souvenir shops and small eateries leading up to a large gateway, a pagoda, a main hall, small buildings, statues and the like.

What’s different is that there’s another building, an impressive one at that, a good 10-minute walk. It looks like a temple that belongs in India and not Japan. It’s newer and more imposing than Tsukiji Honganji, but you get the picture. It’s the Prayer Hall for Safe Driving.

I chuckled to myself as the symbolism atop the temple, the Mahayana Great Wheel (OK, for sticklers out there, Vajrayana if you will, because the temple belongs to the Shingon sect), is perfect! Two-wheeled motorcycles, four-wheeled passenger cars, 10-wheeled trucks--all vehicles are blessed here.

Kawasaki Daishi is most famous for "yakuyoke," or warding off evil, which makes it one of the three most popular temples in the Kanto area to visit during the New Year. "Ogoma" (the ceremonial lighting and burning of incense) is performed several times a day to incinerate worldly desire, the root of all suffering, and to pray for purification, peace and prosperity.

According to the temple’s website, accidents are caused by "muri" and "mayoi," compulsiveness and wavering, and because you are one with your vehicle, your inner state is reflected in all that happens. It is recommended that drivers be blessed annually in order to always “drive with a peaceful heart.”

For those who would like to go through with the exorcism and to get divine protection, go to the reception desk, fill out a form and submit it along with 5,000 yen ($44). Then, pull up your car and park it parallel to the Prayer Hall and go inside.

After the purification ceremony is completed, you will receive a talisman and a magnetic sticker to place on your vehicle. And with this, you are good to go.

May we all drive safely and defensively.

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This article by Lisa Vogt, a Washington-born and Tokyo-based photographer, originally appeared in the Oct. 7 issue of Asahi Weekly. It is part of the series "Lisa’s In and Around Tokyo," which depicts the capital and its surroundings through the perspective of the author, a professor at Meiji University.