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Naramachi might be even nicer than visiting major temples. Taking a break at the Sarusawa-ike pond after venturing around Naramachi.

Nara is home to Naramachi, where many Machiya (town houses) from Edo period still stand. There’s a nice area for venturing about, a cafe and Japanese cake shop, and a restaurant on this historic street. After traveling Naramachi, I took a short break at the edge of Sarusawa-ike pond.

There are benches around the pond where you can enjoy a poetic view with willows and Koufuku-ji temple’s five-story pagoda. When you look onto the pond, you can see turtles and carp in a relaxed state.

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Actually, it is not a natural pond.

The pond was built for Hojo-e at Kofuku-ji temple. Hojo-e is a Buddhist event to show respect to living creatures by liberating and protecting them. Hojo-e is held in spring and the Buddhist monks give the religious blessings to the goldfish in the bucket, thereafter liberating them to the Sarusawa-ike pond with Hannya Shingyo. The religious blessing is like a Buddhist promise during an initiation to Budda teachings when human beings attain spiritual enlightenment.
Hannya Shingyo is a sacred sutra of Buddhism. Buddhism believes in the transmigration of souls and they believe every creature has a soul, so they show mercy to every life form.
Buddha said that every soul could be enlightened through the cycle of reincarnation.

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Buddha and the fish

Buddha lived as Rysui-chojya in a former life and saw many dying fish in a drained pond while walking the street with his two children. He ordered 20 elephants to carry water and food to them. He told them that after they die, they would be reborn in heaven.
After they died, they were transmigrated into the world of heaven and they gave innumerable amounts of flowers and sacred treasures to Rysui-chojya in return for his kindness.
It’s an act to liberate them for next good life by being enlightened with Buddhism. That is why religious blessings are given while liberating fish into the pond.

This method is very unique to Sarusawa-ike and is an interesting story from Nara that has a deep connection with Buddhism.

Sarusawa-ike Pond
■Admission: Free

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Map

Noboriojicho, Nara city, Nara, Japan

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AUTHOR

kyoami

kyoami

Writer/ Translator

I love Japanese folkcraft article, traditional handicrafts and antiques. I’m seeking the Japanese people’s religious outlooks and its origins that are behind Japanese people’s unique sense and techniques rooted in the ordinary life.

Information

Address Noboriojicho, Nara city, Nara, Japan
Access About 7 minutes from Kintestu Nara station no.2 exit to Sarusawa-ike pond by walk/ About 14 minutes from JR Nara station to Sarusawa-ike pond by walk