Saiki`s Old Fudo-Hall and its Traditional Monthly Women`s Prayer Meetings (妻木の不動尊)
By Avi Landau
It can be said that until about 50 years ago, the hamlet of Saiki ( 妻木), now a part of Tsukuba City, was at the edge of NOWHERE. This is because the land on which nearby Tsukuba Center, Tsukuba University and all their accompanying shops, restaurants, and apartments now stand, was once a large tract of impassible woods and marshland. Though remnants of this lost ecosystem can still be found in the string of small parks with ponds which run on a nearly straight north-south axis right through the center of Tsukuba, this once forested area has been turned into the CORE of what is now the SCIENCE CITY. Many of the old residents of Saiki, once poor farmers living in a remote area, have now become prosperous landlords living the easy life, as they have put up on their properties the abundance of chinsy apartments in which so many students (and others) live ( and pay dearly for).
- Saiki`s Blue Roofed Fudo Hall from a distance
Today the neighborhood of Saiki, an oasis of traditional village-scapes just minutes from Tsukuba Center by bicycle, lies sandwiched between the concrete-bank encased Hanamuro River and the 4-lane, chain- restaurant lined boulevard called Higashi-Odori. And while it offers the typically enchanting characteristic features of the deep Ibaraki countryside- the rice, vegetable,buckwheat and turf- lawn fields, the flower patches, the majestic housing compounds with heavy-laden fruit trees which can be seen through the gates or jutting out over the walls, the war memorials, the clusters of sacred stones, and the shrines and temples- one feature of Saiki stands out as a curiosity. It is a small, blue, tin roofed, wooden structure, slightly elevated off the ground by posts, which because of its size, shape and design does NOT appear to be either a shrine, temple or tea house.
Usually, such a stone would have a much smaller shelter( if any at all) and I realized that the structure must be a meeting hall for prayer sessions to O-Fudo Sama (as the deity is affectionately called), similar to the much larger one that can be found in Higashi-Oka, just across the Hanamuro River ( I have written about that prayer hall and its prayer meetings in more detail at: http://blog.alientimes.org/2008/07/higashiokas-fudo-ko-a-meeting-with-the-unmoveable-one/
Anyway, to learn more about the traditions of this (Saiki`s) Fudo Meeting Hall I walked a couple of steps across the narrow road and called out for help. An elderly woman dressed for farm work greeted me cheerfully and told me nearly all I wanted to know- that the hall was called the FUDO-ZON and that there were prayer sessions held every month on the 27th for family health and easy delivery ( if there were any pregnancies in the neighborhood). There could be special prayer sessions if someone called for them. This would be if one of O-Fudo-Sama`s devotee`s relatives or friends were ill or injured.