Stories and pictures from my travels around Japan,
including hundreds of temples and a walk of over 500 km (300 miles)
(more about my travels in Japan)

Statue Molesters, Japanese Style

There's a very funny homepage called "Statue Molesters" ("Find a statue... make it smile").

Well (as they do) the Japanese have their own version of statue molesting.

Take a look at this statue, from the famous Sensoji temple in Asakusa:

If you look carefully, you'll see that his knee is "shining." That's not just a trick of light; it is shinier, because people (mostly old ladies) have been rubbing it.

The common belief is that, if some part of your body is bothering you, rubbing the corresponding part on a holy figure will heal you.

Now look at this statue of a sumo wrestler, found in the Ryogoku area of Tokyo, home of the Kokugikan (National Sumo Stadium).

In this detail, you'll notice something peculiar about the rikishi ("powerful man," the term for the wrestler):

That's right: they've been rubbing his belly!

Should we assume from this that Japan is a nation of dyspeptics?

Probably not. The belly is the seat of power (and not just in sumo wrestlers, who slap it to intimidate their opponents.) Near the belly button, it is the center of gravity in the body, the third chakra (that of power) in Indian belief, and very near the "solar plexus," a place you would be familiar with if anyone has ever hit you in the stomach and "knocked the wind out of you."

So passersby rub the rikishi's belly for power. I rubbed it, too.

And I think it worked.

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