Experience Heaven and Hell at Osaka’s Senkoji Temple
It is said that when you meet the devil, he will appear to you in a familiar form. Osaka’s Senkoji temple looks just like any other Japanese temple at first glance. Quite familiar one could say.
An ordinary temple it may seem to be, but there’s more than meets the eye here… just enter and see. Are you a sinner? Is your soul resolute and pure? Are you game enough to walk into the seemingly benign space of Senkoji Temple – a place that lets some brave souls experience heaven and hell. Be warned, this is not for the faint of heart.
For the courageous among us who are willing to enter the inner depths of Senkoji Temple, there is a rule that must be adhered to. Prior to entering, it is a must to cleanse yourself. An Osenko ceremony must be performed – a soul purifying ritual that has been practiced in Japan from as far back as the 6th century, known as the Asuka period
The ritual is simple enough at first glance. Simply light some incense and stick it into a sacred pit of sand. Once this is done, proceed to ring the grand bell. The ceremony is now complete. This ceremony is useless if your intentions do not match the actions. If you wish to truly purify your soul then you must will it to be so – as your body performs the actions of purification, your mind too should work to rid itself of negative energies.
Now that your soul has been cleansed it is time to enter. Upon entering you are greeted by a sign – left for heaven, right for hell. If you are so inclined, then follow the demon sign to hell. Not so fast though, prior to entering the land of fire and brimstone it must first be seen if your soul is actually destined for hell. Answer the questions laid out before you truthfully to learn your fate. Remember, no lying – if you should try to deceive Lucifer then your tongue will be ripped from your mouth. Apparently.
Once you have answered all the questions then it is time to proceed. Congratulations, you scoundrel. Welcome to Hell. Continue into the depths and enter the realm of the great King Enma – this is no place for the easily startled – Enma’s lair is almost completely pitch black.
Once you ring the bell and awaken King Enma, he will begin to explain what hell is and even tell you a creepy little tale about a poor soul who went to hell, followed by a warning to be heeded should you wish to avoid such a fate. Stealing, Lying, and hurting others are all a one-way ticket to eternal damnation, he warns. To save yourself from an eternity of torture it is important to avoid these actions at all costs. “You only have one life,” are Enma’s wise parting words.
Once you have survived your ordeal with King Enma, it is time to stick your head into the Hell Stone, a sacred stone said to give mere mortals the ability to hear the sound of hell, albeit for a brief moment.
Now its time to descent to heaven. That’s right. Descend. Senkoji Temple invites you to enter a dark staircase leading to a cold tunnel – this version of heaven feels a lot creepier than hell, but persevere and soon you will feel an overwhelming sense of calm sweep over your entire being as you enter the room of 151 Buddha statues and the holy glass mandala at the center. Take your shoes off and meditate on the mandala, reflect on your sins, or lack thereof if you’re boring, and be swept away to a realm not of this world.
Senkoji temple is a spine tingling experience, so bring a partner with you, but be sure to choose wisely, you may be stuck with them for eternity.
4-12-21 Hirano Honmachi, Hirano Ward, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 547-0044, Japan