The temple has one of Osaka's biggest fire fests.
During the first week of February cumulating at Setsubun, Abiko Kannonji comes alive. During this period, visitors pay significant sums of cash to have their offerings burned to cinders in one of Osaka’s biggest fire festivals.
While burning something that you’ve spent so much money on may seem counterintuitive, the practice is connected with the Japanese belief in Yakudoshi (厄年 Unlucky years). At certain ages, people are believed to be more likely to attract misfortune, so the incineration of an offering is believed to ward off back luck. Known as 厄除け (Yakuyoke) in Japanese, the idea is that as your offering disappears into the flames, the act of burning also ‘burns up’ the worldly desire that causes pain in a similar way to the way the Buddha’s wisdom does.
If this talk about Buddhism and fire sounds a little bit unusual it is because the temple is one of the few places in Osaka connected with an obscure syncretic sect of Buddhism known as the Shugendo. This unconventional faith incorporates elements of local folk-religion, mountain worshiping cults, Japan’s indigenous religion Shinto, Chinese Taoism and esoteric Buddhism into a smorgasbord of religious practices and observances.
The temple is a great chance to experience the unique attractions of one of the city’s lesser-known areas [of Osaka].
Considering the queues, energy and excitement of its fire festival, it can be surprising to discover that for the rest of the year, Abiko Kannon-ji is a relaxed, family-focused temple. As the name suggests, the main Buddhist entity enshrined at the building is a Kannon Buddha, an entity known for her compassion towards all living things.
So great is the compassion of the Kannon Buddha that it is even said that the other main attraction of the temple, the tree on the grounds, was blessed with the ability to protect those who fled to the temple. It was particularly useful in this role during the numerous violent conflicts that Japan endured 700-1,300 years ago.
Whether you would like to experience the flaming turmoil of the fire festival or the laid-back pace of the rest of year, Abiko Kannon-ji should be added to the list of attractions that make the Abiko area worth more than a glance. For people willing to head a little away from the crowded central area of Osaka in search of things to see, the temple is a great chance to experience the unique attractions of one of the city’s lesser-known areas.