Illness-curing stone in Japan

Something kind of interesting I wanted to pass along. One time I was watching the online Japanese TV channel Seebit TV, which is localized in Hyogo Prefecture,1 and they had a small segment about a famous stone that could cure any illness in the city of Kawanishi. The stone is featured here on the Kawanishi City’s tourism website.

According to the Japanese (TV show and website),2 an epidemic struck the city of Kawanishi during the Edo Period causing a lot of suffering. At that time, a Buddhist monk happened to pass through and saw what was happening. He spent several days in intense prayer, and after a time, people started to feel better. As he was about to leave, the people asked him for further help, so he asked them to wait. He left the village and brought back a big stone from the nearby Inagawa (猪名川?) River, and told the villagers that if they touched the stone three times, it would cure any illness. The stone is still there today and people still visit hoping that it might cure their ailments.

While the story of “Buddhist magic” may sound silly in modern times, I still found the story touching that a monk would help out so many people. Buddhism, afterall, is not so much about sitting in meditation as it is helping others. I also like showing people something lesser-known about Japan, so I enjoyed hearing the story and wanted to pass it along. If you ever go to Hyogo Prefecture (which isn’t far from Kyoto anyway), stop by Kawanishi City and take a picture for me, ok? I’ll post it on the blog. :D

1 Home of Naoko and her excellent blog. ;)

2 Translation probably is wrong here in some parts. Please bear with me. I couldn’t find an English source to double-check, but relied on Google Translate somewhat.

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About Doug

A Buddhist, father and Japanophile / Koreaphile.
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7 Responses to Illness-curing stone in Japan

  1. Stephen says:

    At Zendo-ji (Kyushu head temple of Jodo Shu) there is a tale that if a pregnant woman passes the first gate, the first person she meets before the second gate determines the gender of of the baby. A priest once questioned the head of the temple as to whether this story has any worth. The head Priest replied “Of course it does! in my tenure I would vow that it has been accurate at least half the time!”
    Cynical but, if you can make it to the stone, in most cases you are going to get better before becoming worse. And the placebo effect comes into place… but I am not belittling “Buddha majic”; there is much in Buddhism that is not talked about and publicly known.
    Just one traveller’s thoughts,
    Stephen

  2. naoko says:

    I didn’t know the story even though I live in Hyogo!! I WILL take a photo if I pass by the stone and send it to you.

    I can’t find any mistakes in your translation. If something I can add to it, the web site says, the stone has now become smooth(つるつる) becuase people has kept touching the stone to be cured.

    I agree some points to Stephen, but if my family or myself became sick, I could not help but going and touching it! The stone helps your mind keep strong against the sickness.

  3. naoko says:

    Oh, sorry
    The website doesn’t say つるつる but ‘艶(つや)のある滑らかな石’.

  4. Doug says:

    Hi Everyone!

    Stephen: Yeah, I suspect some local folk beliefs get refined and promoted by temples who need the funds, but like you, I believe there is a kind of “magic” to Buddhism sometimes. The Buddha reminded people often that the consequences of karma are inconceivable.

    Naoko: I can’t wait to see a picture. ;) As for the stone, yes, I agree, that religious items bring a lot of comfort. It’s not that important if they work or not, it’s the thought that matters, right? That’s why I always like visiting temples in Japan, and getting items. Maybe they’re blessed, maybe not, but I like what they symbolize. :)

  5. Stephen says:

    Tonight over dinner we were talking about Hearn (due to a blogger I am not going to name). My wife told me that the scariest story she read was Mujina, a coincidence because I had not mentioned which Hearn stories I was rereading.
    She said that the narative of running through the woods at night and the sheer suppostious fear of certain places (and in Hearn’s case they are all real places) may not be easily understood. As a Jodo Shu priest I tend to try to calm peoples superstions.
    I once sat through a lecture by a very moving Soto Shu priest. He gave the statistics for the number of black cats killed in one year in Italy. His main point was that we shouldn’t shy away from performing funerals on Tomobiki (there is a superstition that a funeral held on this day will result in a friend dying soon). His logic was solid, his passion was moving: I doubt anyone changed their mind.
    If I was still living near Hyogo and someone in my family was sick, I am sorry Naoko-san but you may have to wait in line behind me. After-all, when we learned my wife was pregnant, we went to the before mentioned Main Temple, and picked up all the goods supposed to protect her and the baby.
    Maybe it is a thing about Japanese life and religion.
    Great Blog btw Naoko-san
    Stephen

    Afternote – The offering box at my temple was stolen. The box cost about 600 dollars and there was only loose change inside. Maybe old superstitions aren’t as worthless as young people like me try to say.

  6. Stephen says:

    Correction-
    The story my wife said was scariest was “the phantom waterfall”, not mujina. Sorry fo an confusion.
    Even monkeys fall from trees (Japanese proverb) and I have a wild monkey mind.
    Stephen

  7. Doug says:

    Ha ha ha, my wife isn’t very familiar with Hearn’s stories other than 雪女 so my conversation ended differently. :) I wish I could have found a real copy of the story, but alas, it’s not that popular in English I guess. Even Mujina is something that is not well-kown either.

    Regarding the Soto Shu priest’s lecture, I think it’s an excellent point. Superstition can be comforting, but if it leads to doing something terrible like killing cats or wasting your money, that’s a problem. His sermon was excellent.

    As for Tomobiki 友引 , I know about the tradition, but it’s good to see some people overcoming it. Buddhism, like you said, is all about seeing reality as it is, which is hard to do when our minds are cluttered up with so many ideas. Like the Yogacarins say, there’s no reality apart from what we interpret, and people can interpret reality in all kinds of odd ways depending on what influences they’ve absorbed. A tricky topic indeed.

    Anyway, you got me thinking about the 6 Days 六曜, so I better blog about that one of these days. ;)

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