Naritasan Shinshoji Temple really took me by surprise. I've never heard before that there is an ancient picturesque temple with a long history in a small town beside a very big international airport like Narita. For me Naritasan Shinshoji Temple is out of the ordinary. It’s really extraordinary.
I cycled out from my accommodation, the Hilton Tokyo Narita Airport Hotel right after breakfast. It did not take me long before I was at the road in front of the temple, which is lined with shop and restaurants. The temple main gate is beautifully decorated. From the main gate there is a path way lined with stone lanterns and a set of steep stairs up to the second gate which has a big red lantern hanging in the middle. Another set of steep stairs after that and I got to the top. WOW I thought, the picture I saw was very idyllic, a large central wooden Japanese building, simple but remarkable, surrounded by many beautiful buildings. Then I heard a sound which drew my attention, the sound of drums and chanting coming from the main building. I hurried to the building and found a ceremony was going on. Later I learned that it is a traditional prayer ceremony that has been performed for thousands years ago and continues until the present time, called ‘Goma Prayer’.
I was very lucky to experience the prayer ceremony 'Goma'. In the center of the building is the head monk sitting in front of a bright fire pit. There are 3-4 monks sitting behind him who did the chanting. It sounds like the prayers we do in Thailand. I think it’s the same Pali; the difference is over here they beat a large drum to the rhythm of the chanting. The drum sound blended in nicely with the chanting. I'm not sure what the head monk throws into the fire which makes its sparkle and generates lots of smoke coming up from it. Meanwhile there are 2 different monks waiting to collect hand bags from people in the building and wave them over the fire. The ceremony was awesome to witness.
After returning from the temple I was researching for details which help me understand more about the prayer ceremony 'Goma'. This fire prayer ceremony is a prayer to the god of fire which known in Japanese as ' Fudomyoo’ or Achala a 'a god servant of Buddha’. The prayer ceremony 'Goma' at Naritasan Shinshoji Temple is held several times each day.
On the temple grounds, there are several buildings. Each one looks different and has its own charm. One building in particular is my favorite, an old wooden building with a Buddha shrine. Outside around the building wall are wood carvings, ‘The 500 Buddha's Disciples’ which are elaborate and beautiful.
Beside all those splendid buildings, there are 2 pagodas, Daitou pagoda which mean ‘Big pagoda’ and the Three-storied wooden pagoda with gorgeous decoration and paintings.
The Naritasan Shinshoji Temple is located near the JR Narita and Keiseinarita Stations and not far from Narita International Airport. From both JR Narita and Keiseinarita Stations it will take about 20 minutes on foot on Omotesando Street. It will be a fun walk to the temple because the Omotesando Street is packed with interesting shops and restaurants.