The Japanese approach to religion is sometimes a little more worldly than eternity-focused. That’s not to say there isn’t a deeper side of religious practice, as there certainly is a depth and variety of it, but practices like leaving beer as an offering for Buddha are completely normal.

Alcohol is a somewhat universal offering, is it not?

The requests you can make of a Buddha–in this case, the very merciful Jizo-sama–can be surprisingly shallow in light of other religious practices, but nonetheless very popular. There is plenty of scholarly research about Japanese perceptions of beauty and beautiful people which I don’t need to go into here, but suffice to say that people–especially young women–can and do go on beauty tours. One of the places they come to is Tamatsukuri Onsen, on the southeast bank of Lake Shinji.

Our local hot springs--highly recommended!

Shimane is known as the best prefecture in Japan for beautiful skin, but the Tamatsukuri hot springs in particular are known as the Baths of the Gods. Besides mythological records of the Izumo region like the Kojiki and Nihonshoki, we also have the 8th century encyclopedia of the Izumo region, the Izumo-no-Kuni-no-Fudoki (one of the most complete anthropological and geographical records of Japan for that time period), in which these hot springs were described as a place where the young and old alike would party in the baths that kept their skin looking young and pretty. Today it’s not just the locals, but vacationers staying at the ryokan (fancy inns) or just strolling through the area who take advantage of these waters and beauty products made from them.

That’s why signs like this on the outskirts of the ryokan area are only slightly surprising.

“There are lots of BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE around this area, so keep your eyes peeled!”

While the historic shinto shrine, charming shops, foot baths along the Tamayu River and the luxury hotels are probably the things that first come to mind when people think of this area, I thought I’d introduce Seigan-ji, a temple built around the year 1500 and known for its Oshiroi Jizo. It is the 33rd of the 33 Izumo Kannon pilgrimage spots.

More general pictures of Seigan-ji are here (Japanese page), but they don’t have pictures of how to make a very specific request of the Oshiroi Jizo-sama. You start by buying a little prayer tablet, either for your face or your body, on which you write how you’d like to change your body image on one side, and indicate the area on the picture on the other side. You then hang this board next to the Oshiroi Jizo.

After doing so, you apply some white powder to the spot on the Oshiroi Jizo-sama that corresponds to the spot you’d like to change.

The story goes that a high priest did this and the ugly birthmark on his cheek disappeared. People not only do this to remove shallow imperfections, but also for to heal ailments and injuries.

I didn’t do it because I was too flustered with people I knew watching, but as soon as I walked away I suddenly though of everything I would have asked for! Oh well, can’t push my luck. I went home with a little bottle of Tamatsukuri beauty water anyway.

There’s something wrong with this picture–you don’t rinse your hands above the fountain, but in a lower basin next to it so as not to contaminate the water!

I got my bottle for free–and the little old lady taking some for herself was very enthusiastic about the water’s effects.