LGBTQ+ friendly and discrimination free 800 year old Saimyouji, Kawagoe. Popular attractions at the temple include the anime and seasonally themed floral water fonts and events including temple illumination.
A few months ago I accidentally caught a snippet of a TV report of a temple, Saimyouji, in Kawagoe performing same sex marriages. Only the second temple ever in all of Japan to openly promote LGBTQ+ weddings. The TV report was around the time that Kawagoe started offering same sex couples special “partnership certificates” that are said to be equivalent to marriage. Saitama City also offer the certificates and Sakado and Kitamoto will do from this month.
The temple is also known as Yokoyama Saimyouji, or Saimyoji or Saimyo / Saimyou Temple. Interestingly, Saimyouzi is the official English spelling of the temple.
I didn’t recognize the temple by sight and quickly forgot the name. I had assumed it was in the Arakawa area of Kawagoe where there are several temples I often pass, but haven’t had the chance to visit yet. Unrelated – or so I thought – this summer, photos on Instagram of beautiful seasonal floral water fonts at a temple in a rural area of Kawagoe piqued my attention. After finding it on google maps, I was keen to go as the temple isn’t that far from me and beside the Kawagoe Water Park where we sometimes play. Between one thing and another I didn’t get to go until today.
I had no idea the LGBTQ temple and the floral font temple were one and the same until I visited today. I was in the area for cosmos viewing today so decided to take a quick detour to incorporate the floral fonts into my outing. As I approached the car park google maps was directing me to, I could see rainbow colored flags around the temple. I still didn’t make the connection. But once I got inside the grounds the penny finally dropped. An information stand beside one of the floral fonts by the entrance to the reception area of the temple was colored brightly with LGBTQ posters, leaflets and event flyers. And I finally realized that this was most likely the LGBTQ friendly temple I had glimpsed on TV all those months ago.
When I got home, a quick search confirmed that this is indeed the temple that performs same sex weddings in Kawagoe. I even found one post by Tokyo Weekender in English, about the very interesting and open minded priest, Akihiro Senda. Father Senda is the 57th chief priest of Saimyou Temple. The thing that stood out most to me from his interview is that he doesn’t just want the temple to be discrimination free, he is working hard to make it that way. He welcomes people of all walks of life, regardless of race, religion or any other reason. I am also impressed by the work he is doing in and for the community. For example, raising awareness about various social issues and extending a hand to those in need.
In order to attract people to the temple the priest Senda introduced two temple mascots. The characters appear on temple merchandise and promotional material. Furthermore, on the grounds of the temple there is a photo prop with the temple mascots. You can put your own face in for a memorable photo! The floral fonts, which change regularly with the seasons, also work to attract and relax new visitors.
There are several annual events at the temple to foster community and simultaneously create awareness about various social issues.
Temple light up
Tonight, October 11th, they are lighting the temple up in rainbow colors for national coming out day. The temple is lit up in one color of the rainbow from 5 pm to 11 pm. It changes color every hour, working through six colors of the rainbow from red (first) to purple (last). They also light the temple up pink during the pink ribbon month and in April they light it up blue during the Autism Awareness month.
Pink Ribbon Month
Currently this month is Pink Ribbon Month at the temple. They are giving away free pink ribbon stickers in the temple’s characters motif. They are just by the gate, so you can help yourself. There is also free information booklets about Buddhism at the gate.
Seasonal flower fonts
When I wrote this post the theme of one of the floral water fonts was Christmas. And you could find items in the fonts representing either Christmas or the anime Demon Slayer. Update February 22nd: the current themes are Hina Matsuri (Dolls Festival) and Sailor Moon. In addition, there is a beautiful weeping plum blossom currently in bloom at the temple.
Kimetsu no Yaiba: Demon Slayer
Have you heard about the Kawagoe Temple with a Demon Slayer (Kimetsu no Yaiba) themed water font based on the anime Demon Slayer? It is so popular among the foreign community that it has been mentioned in English language newspapers. They started the Demon Slayer displays after the great success of the movie “Mugen Train” which opened in Japanese cinemas on October 26th.
The Kimetsu no Yaiba decoration is changed every Saturday. Sometimes they have special Kimetsu no Yaiba (Demon Slayer) events too. Such as this visit from Inosuke Hashibira on December 12th 2020:
Update February 22nd 2021: the Kimetsu no Yaiba Demon Slayer themed fonts are now finished. However, in their place…
Sailor Moon Floral Fonts
Saimyouji is now running Sailor Moon Floral Fonts. I went to see the one that started on February 20th on February 22nd 2021:
I am so glad that I finally made my way to see the floral font temple and serendipitously find the LGBTQ+ friendly temple. After reading the Tokyo Weekender article I wish I had found the priest. I’d like to ask him more about the care packages he organizes for single Moms and if / how you can give a donation. But I think several visits to this temple are in my future, so I’m sure there will be an opportunity at one point. If you have any more information – or there is a question you’d like me to ask on my next visit! – please do leave a comment.
Saimyoji Temple Information
|Yokoyama Saimyouji Temple|
|Address:||61 Ogaya, Kawagoe, Saitama 350-1104|
|Hours:||9 am to 7 pm except when there is light up and the temple opens until 11 pm.|
|Cost:||Free to roam, services and merchandise have varying costs.|
|Online:||Official website (interestingly the temple’s official English is Saimyouzi Temple)|
The temple is located on the east side of the Kawagoe Water Park. You can actually walk to the temple from the park via a side entrance by the east side of the lake in the park. Therefore, a bus to the park will also bring you to the temple! Buses bound for Kawagoe Suijo Koen – 川越水上公園 – go from Kawagoe Station.
If you are approaching the park with its main archway entrance in front of you, the temple is just on the right hand side. You can’t miss the rainbow colored flags. In order to get into temple by car though, you have to take a steep right turn then wind through narrow residential area roads. There is parking past the temple on the right hand side. Also easily identifiable thanks to the colored flags.