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Flight and Fortune: Tobifudo, Tokyo's Flying Guardian

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2024.01.04 (Thu)

By Dan Lewis, inbound tourism adviser and consultant, long-term Japan resident & outdoor activity enthusiast.

In the heart of Tokyo's Taito area lies a historic temple, nicknamed Tobifudo, with roots dating back to 1530. Legend has it that Fudo Myoo, the guardian deity enshrined at Tobifudo, possessed the ability to fly. This earned him the moniker "Tobifudo," signifying a deity who soars through the sky to protect the people of Edo, now Tokyo.

The chief priest of the temple at that time once went to Mt. Omine in Nara Prefecture for ascetic training, carrying Fudo-sama with him. While the temple in Edo was away, people gathered to pray, and overnight, Fudo-sama flew back and fulfilled the wishes of those who prayed. Since then, he has been called Tobifudo.

Today, Tobifudo continues to attract a diverse crowd, including air travelers, overseas visitors, students facing exams, and even professional golfers. The temple is renowned for its blessings, notably contributing to the safe return of the asteroid probe "Hayabusa."

Tobifudo has become an essential destination for tourists seeking both historical significance and spiritual blessings. Its allure extends beyond the local populace, drawing those who wish for safe journeys, be it on land or in the air. The temple is particularly popular among those embarking on a pilgrimage to visit the Seven Lucky Gods of Japan, known as Shichifukujin.

Especially popular at the beginning of the year, the Shichifukujin Meguri circuit invites visitors to explore the local shrines and temples dedicated to the Seven Lucky Gods. In Tokyo's Taito City, there are three areas to explore these shrines and temples - Yanaka, Asakusa, and Shitaya - each offering a chance to connect with these deities. The Edo-era Yanaka circuit takes visitors on a journey through historic buildings, temples, and parks in Yanaka and Ueno.

The Asakusa course, reopened in 1977, includes visits to nine shrines and temples, offering a diverse cultural experience. Finally, the Shitaya course introduces pilgrims to Tobifudo Shoboin, founded in 1530, where travelers pray for safe journeys and flights, receiving omamori (lucky charms) for protection.

As the dawn light graces Tobifudoson, it transforms into a living tale, seamlessly intertwining history, spirituality, and contemporary aspirations. Welcoming all with open arms, it invites everyone to take flight with the blessings of the Flying God.

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