The “Events” category of the Tokyo Shitamachi Guide covers limited-time events in the Shitamachi area of Tokyo (the area along and to the east of the Sumida River). Each time, we will recommend one interesting event to add to your Tokyo sightseeing experience.
This blog post is about Moja-Okuri (the sending-off ritual for the evil spirits), one of the New Year’s rituals at Sensoji Temple in Taito Ward of Tokyo.
Sensoji Temple holds a Buddhist ritual called Onza-Hiho-Darani-E every January. This ritual is a seven-day series of prayers for peace in the world and Japan. And Moja-Okuri is Onza-Hiho-Daranie’s final prayer.
On January 18, I visited Sensoji Temple’s Moja-Okuri. This blog post will share what it was like. If you are going to Tokyo’s Shitamachi area, especially the Asakusa area, be sure to check out this blog post for sightseeing tips.
This blog post is also available in Japanese. You can refer to it at the following link:
Onza-Hiho-Daranie and Moja-Okuri
Onza-Hiho-Daranie is a series of Buddhist prayers that Sensoji Temple holds every January. The purpose of this rituals is to pray for peace in the world and Japan. According to Sensoji Temple, this has been its tradition since the 18th century.
Sensoji Temple holds Onza-Hiho-Darani-E for seven days from January 12 to 17 every year. In this ritual, all the Buddhist monks of Sensoji Temple take turns, offering a total of 168 prayers. Except for the final prayer, Onza-Hiho-Darani-E is a closed ritual.
Moja-Okuri, the sending-off ritual for the evil spirits, is the final prayer (the 168th prayer) of Onza-Hiho-Darani-E. Through Moja-Okuri, monks perform Koya-Jinku. Koya means a wasteland, and Jinku means offering food and water to Buddhist deities or the dead.
The purpose of Moja-Okuri is to hold a memorial service to offer food and water to the evil spirits and hungry ghosts living in the Buddhist hell.
Moja-Okuri starts around 5 p.m. And it is held behind the prayer sign-up counter in Sensoji Temple’s main hall, known as Kannon-Do. For this reason, it is not easy to observe this ritual.
After Moja-Okuri ends around 5:45 p.m., two Buddhist monks dressed as demons appear in the hall. These demons represent evil spirits and hungry ghosts.
Two demons carry torches and offerings for the ritual. And they walk around the precincts of Sensoji Temple. Finally, they bury their torches and offerings in the precincts of Zenizuka Jizo-Do Hall, another Buddhist hall behind Kannon-Do Hall. This concludes the 7-day ritual.
According to Sensoji Temple, the flame of the torch held by the demons is said to purify disasters. For this reason, some people keep the charcoal that falls from the torch as a good luck charm in their homes.
- January 18 (Wed.) 5 p.m.
Moja-Okuri 2024 (Expected Date)
- January 18 (Thu.) 5 p.m.
It was around 5 p.m., just after sunset, when Moja-Okuri began. Sensoji Temple usually lights up its buildings after sunset, but not on this day. As a result, the precincts of Sensoji Temple were very dark and impressive.
When the Moja-Okuri prayer was finished, it was around 5:45 p.m., and all the lights in the main hall of Sensoji Temple were turned off. We expected two demons to come out of the main hall. At that time, I saw a huge crowd in front of the main hall.
This was the first time that I visited Sensoji Temple’s Moja-Okuri. It was very solemn when the two demons were walking around the precincts of the temple. I regretted that I had not come to see this event until now.
This time, I saw and took pictures of the demons in front of the chozuya, which is the facility to purify your hands and mouth before praying to the deities. But if you want to take better pictures, you should be at the location between the chozuya and the incense burner. From this location, you can see two demons coming out of the main hall and walking around the incense burner.