We are taking a break from Tokyo and introducing you some Indian footprints in a southern city of Japan, KOBE.
As per the textbook definition of what I learned back in India, Tirthankar, in Jainism is a sage of the highest order, whose wisdom bridges the material world with the spiritual world. There are supposedly 24 Tithankar’s and Mahaveer was the last of the Tirthankar who for twelve and a half years practiced intense meditation and severe penance, after which he achieved Kevala Jnana or enlightenment.
Kobe had many foreign settlements in the late 19th century in Kitano-cho, Kobe, popularly known as ijinkan (foreigners’ residences). They are usually associated with Western style residences; but in the 20th century the Asian including the Indian influence in this neighborhood has been on the rise. The Kobe Mosque shows some Islamic influence from India, as does the Kobe Jain Temple nearby. The beautiful temple is located the very quiet neighborhood of Kitanozaka, Kitanocho the area well frequented by tourists. The temple used to be a daily visit when I stayed in this neighborhood and would visit it before I walked down to my office in Sannomiya.
The local Indian influence of the mostly second and third generation Indians settled here and mostly belonging to the Jainism faith of Central India is visible in form of this temple. The Indians in Kobe are mostly pearl and diamond traders as against the majority IT engineers or cooks in Tokyo. Mnay of this community are Jain followers and no doubt that this community has invested in creating their belief system in the neighborhood. The second floor has the idol of Bhagwaan Mahaveer. If I split the name Maha-veer in Sanskrit, it gives the context of “great” and “warrior”, but mahaveer is usually associated with his thirty years teachings based on ahimsa, satya, asteya, brahmacharya. Interesting name. The Indian ambiance in a real temple in Japan, You can sit on this floor, offer prayer and meditate.
The temple is built out of marble and the architectural detail of the temple is extraordinary. Entrance is encrusted with tiny elephant sculptures, and it actually looks like a mini-Angkor Wat.
The doors and the windows are also elaborately designed. You can spend quite some time here just watching the architectural beauty.
Collect a copy which describes the history of the Temple and the teachings of the Mahaveer written in detail in both English and Japanese for free at the temple, just near the entrance. Just the memory of my education, the Tirthankara is a silent one with no clothes, has no possessions yet has the maximum impact. He transforms people from within unlike the Jain definitions of Vasudeva (fighter) or Chakravarti (rule enforcer) so that, even in his absence, without the aid of any law, humans become gentler and more compassionate. The Tirthankara is therefore the most revered of the Shalakapurushas, and the teachings in the book make for a beautiful philosophical reading in the serene neighborhood.
Kobe Jain Temple was opened on June 1st in 1985, when the Indian community in the city of Kobe was at its peak. The trust which maintains the temple, Jain Sangh of Kobe, consists of members from the local Indian business community.
Beautiful flowers at the entrance to the temple. Remember to remove your footwear before entering. There is a sign which will remind you of the same too. On entering the aroma of the incense sticks and the camphor add to the overall mood of “being in India”.
The staff at the temple is very courteous and they also share a lot of history of the temple. The structure is beautiful, made from sand stone and white marble, and the idol of Bhagwan Mahaveer was specially flown in from Mumbai, India, in the year 1984. The Indian community in Tokyo picked up volumes in these past two decades while in Kobe the Indian community now in its third and more generations are a breed apart which you can see in terms of the long term investments made like the one in the temple here in one of the most posh and plush locations of Kobe.
The temple is covered in all the major tourism material we know of and is a must visit spot if you happen to go to Kobe
The maps list in right in the center as seen in the below leaflet. Conveniently located 10 minutes walk from the Shin Kobe Shinkansen Station.
The India club is in the same neighborhood, which was founded in 1904… Its nearly 100 years old. I have enjoyed the cricket club matches which you can view on the large screen in this facility if you know a few friends who can get you the entry. Watched the 2011 Cricket World Cup which India won from this place…
Dr. Mahendra H. Udani