In addition to being one of Tokyo’s oldest temples, Kiyomizu Kannon-do is home to a special “Doll Memorial Service” which is dedicated to praying for childbirth as well as safe delivery and child rearing.
Constructed in 1632, Kiyomizu Kannon-do was inspired both in name and design by the older and more famed Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Kyoto. Named after the Bodhisattva statue which was dedicated from Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Kiyomizu Kannon-do was also built in the same manner as its namesake. The Bodhisattva statue is a fitting gift as a bodhisattva is an individual striving to become a Buddha, and Kiyomizu Kannon-dō appears to emulate (at least visually) Kiyomizu-dera Temple, which is roughly 1500 year older.
Each year, a special memorial service is held for dolls. It is said that this ceremony started when people prayed to this child-rearing kannon; kannon being a bodhisattva of compassion, and regarded as a protector of women and children. Here, worshippers pray to be blessed with a child, for a safe delivery, as well as to offer a doll as a sort of proxy for the child they received. This is done as a token of gratitude, and also to pray for their child to grow in health. Believers may come on separate occasions for each purpose, or in a single visit.
This year, the Doll Memorial Festival at Kiyomizu Kannon-do will be held on Sunday, September 25th. Kiyomizu Kannon-do is a short two minute walk from Ueno Station. Visitors who wish to observe the doll memorial service should note that the ceremony starts from 14:00.