EP18 The Bell of Miidera


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Show Notes for episode 18 of our Podcast – The Bell of Miidera.  

We know of several stories surrounding the Bell of Miidera.

Story Notes

Kanesama

One relates how women were forbidden to touch the bell as it was feared that it would cause the bell to go dull. A woman from Kyoto learns of this tales and so wishes to go and touch the bell. Journeying to the temple she looks at the gleaming bell and tentatively touches it. Upon the touching the bell, the part where her fingers touched shrank leaving an indentation. The rest of the bell is said to have then lots its shine.

Benkei and the Bell

Bell of Miidera
Benkei Pulling the Bell of Miidera

Another tale relates to Benkei, who was the retainer of Miyamoto no Yoshitsune. The tale relates that when he was still a monk he sorely wanted to steal the bell to install it into his own monastery. He thought to roll the heavy bell down the hill, but fearing the monks would hear him and discover his theft he used his great strength to place the bell on one end of the cross-beam and his paper lantern on the other and proceeded the carry the heavy burden for seven miles. Eating a meal after arriving back at his temple, he then allows the monks to strike the bell.

However, instead the bell made a cry of ‘I want to go back to Miidera!’ They hoped that sprinkling the bell with holy water would appease it, but still the bell longed for Miidera. Benkei grew angry and so he struck the bell as hard as he could hoping it would break, but it did not. All it did was cry again, ‘I want to go back to Miidera!’ He took the bell to the top of a mountain, kicking it down the slope. Benkei no longer wanting the bell. Eventually the priests of Miidera found their bell once more and hung it back in its rightful place. It is said though the bell never spoke again, and merely rung like other temple bells.

Song Notes

Todays song is called Furusato, and is a traditional childrens song written by Teiichi Okano and Tatsuyuki  Takano. Now that winter is drawing closer in Japan, you can hear this song playing at around 4.30 to tell the children it is time to go home before it gets dark.

One of the verses goes as follows:

兎追いし 彼の山
小鮒釣りし 彼の川
夢は今も 巡りて
忘れ難き 故郷

usagi oishi ka no yama
ko-buna tsurishi ka no kawa
yume wa ima mo megurite
wasure-gataki furusato

I chased after rabbits on that mountain.
I fished for minnow in that river.
I still dream of those days even now
Oh, how I miss my old country home.

You can listen to the full episode over on Anchor here: Japan Archives, or wherever you listen to Podcasts.

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Be sure to check out Heather’s blog on lifes little adventures here: HeatherOverYonder.

Heavenly Spear