Kagawa: When you wish upon a cucumber …

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A monk inserts a talisman into a cucumber at a ceremony to pray for the healing of illness on Shodoshima island, Kagawa Prefecture, on Aug. 4.

SHODOSHIMA, Kagawa — An unusual Buddhist ritual in which a cucumber is used to pray for the healing of illness was held at Hoanji temple on Shodoshima island in the Seto Inland Sea. The idea is to contain the disease in the cucumber by inserting paper talismans into the vegetable and burying it in the soil.

On Aug. 4, worshippers from the island as well as off the island gathered with cucumbers at the temple and dedicated them with talismans on which their wishes were written.

Chief priest Gicho Miyauchi and other monks made holes in the cucumbers using a special sacred device and inserted pieces of the paper talismans while reading sutras. The cucumbers were then thrown into a hole dug in a corner of the precinct. The worshippers believe that when the cucumbers rot in the soil, the disease is cured.

This ceremony is said to be a secret method introduced from China by Kukai (774-835), the most famous Buddhist monk in ancient Japan.

According to the temple, prayers were offered for about 1,500 people, including those who applied by mail.