In Japan, it is still the New year holidays so I decided to take a small venture out. In Shuri area, there are 4 popular temples that enshrine guardian gods assigned to all 12 of the zodiac animals. While I should have gone to Daruma temple because it enshrines the deity of the year of the dog (戌 is my zodiac year), I instead decided to visit Shuri Kannondo. By the way, Shuri Kannondo enshrines several zodiac deities: Dragon, Snake, Mouse, Ox, Tiger and Horse.
Hatsumode 初詣 is still going strong, even here in Okinawa, so traffic was a mess. After all, there are a lot of temples and shrines in the Shuri area, more so than the rest of Okinawa.
The temple was busy, but overall not as crowded as some of the others in downtown Naha. I was able to get around easily and the lines were short. I was able to pick up some omamori as well.
What was most notable about this temple was the cute little dog character. The year of the dog deity is not enshrined here, so who is it? Well, it is Conan, a very adorable long-haired chihuahua. He is the mascot of the temple. He is called a 合掌犬 gassho-inu, a “praying dog.” He mimics his master, a priest, and joins in the daily prayers the temple, sitting up on his hind legs and putting his front paws together before the altar. Gassho 合掌 means “pressing one’s hands together,” usually in prayer or reverence (though it can also be in greeting, gratitude, apology, etc.). The priest taught the dog from a young age the worshipping posture; he quickly caught on and now the dog does it very naturally every day with the priest.
The temple was very busy, so I did not see the celebrity himself, so perhaps next time I will go in the morning when it is quieter. However, I did purchase an ema 絵馬 (prayer board) with Conan’s likeness on it to write wishes of good health and hang up at the temple.