Tokyo Report P.1: Sozen-Ji (Tokyo, Japan) – everyday my day starts with chanting and drumming?!

Text by Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi

Every morning around 6am I take a walk with my wife to the near by Sozen-Ji temple, Tokyo’s oldest temple located in Tokyo’s old city Asakusa, to attend the Boghisattva Kannon worshipping ceremony. For about 15 minutes the main priest and three of his assistants of the temple pray and chant to the Boghisattva Kannon which has been worshipped by Japanese since early times. The prayer and chant is accompanied and supported by a Japanese drum played by another priest. The popularity of the Bodhisattva Kannon comes from its unparalleled source of benefits and miracles over the centuries. Since its appearance in this world it apparently has saved and protected many people.

One of the main functions of Kannon is to open people’s hearts and show mercy to others in daily life. And this is exactly how I feel when I’m standing in front of the altar. I bow to the hidden Kannon, which is in a sanctum at the extreme rear of the temple, and let my thoughts come out which are mostly about my wife and her passed away mother. I just wish them both peace and send them my prayer with the drum drone around me. With the help of the sound I hope that my message will reach this deity and then through her to my wife and my mother-in-law. I can feel that the drum sound and its rhythm connect me with them and the Kannon.

Although I’m not religious – but brought up in an Islamic family and educated in an Christian society – I have been always attracted by “outside” religions, such as Sufi and Zen. Especially by Zen through my Kendo apprenticeship and studies.

After the Kannon ceremony I stroll the temple area and enjoy the flow of time, the people around me and the memories of Japan which pop up in my mind. At Sozen-Ji I feel the moment of my existence and at the same time I get quite nostalgic remembering beautiful things I’ve experienced during my long life in Japan. I’m also very thankful to my wife who literally pulled me to Asakusa and made ma aware of a Japan which I couldn’t find through Kendo alone. With all my bitterness of today’s Japan Sozen-Ji “tells” me to calm down and not to forget how much I owe this country and its people.

It’s good to be a musician and to be back in Tokyo…because I started my music career here. I met Salif Keita and Ornette Coleman here. The music I’m creating and performing in NY is rooted in Japan….