At the base of Mount Takao, on the outskirts of Tokyo, a Buddhist monk performed a ceremony of blessings.  Dressed in bright orange, the monk prayed over the white Toyota van, banged the drum a few times, and dripped holy water onto the hood.  The family watched quietly, perhaps praying along with the monk, for no accidents and safe driving.  We had just witnessed a Buddhist car blessing.

This was the first I had heard of a car blessing, and Sumi from Host Nations Relations explained to us what was happening.  “This is very exciting for you to watch,” she said.  This particular temple is specifically for car blessings, as you can see the parking spaces painted at the entrance of the temple.  They perform a blessing about every 15 or 30 minutes, depending on the demand.  After the van ceremony was done, a motorcyclist drove up to receive his blessing.  After a bit of research, there are both Buddhist and Shinto car blessings in Japan, and they are becoming more and more popular.  Shinto blessings involve flower petals being sprinkled on the car, and they are performed by a Shinto priest called a kannushi.  Based on the crazy driving situations in Japan, I can understand why they feel the need to have the extra assurance.  I wonder if our car was blessed when it was brand new (in 1998!).

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