Every year in early December, two temples in Kyoto serve a special bowl of daikon and fried tofu (abura-age). The daikon are individually inscribed with sacred Sanskrit letters which are blessed in a temple ceremony and then cooked up in large vats in the temple grounds. This celebration is known as “Daikondaki” 大根焚. Eating the blessed daikon is said to help stave off illness over the coming winter and to prevent paralysis.
Daihō’onji 大報恩寺, commonly known as Senbon Shakado, located not far from Kitano Tenmangu Shrine in northern Kyoto, celebrates Buddha’s enlightenment on December 7th and 8th. It is said that the Buddha achieved enlightenment on the morning of December 8th and the Daikondaki ceremony celebrates his enlightenment. The custom dates back to an abbot of Daihō’onji, Jizen Shōnin, who lived during the 13th Century.
Ryōtokuji 了得時, also in the northern part of Kyoto, located to the west of Ninnaji, celebrates Daikondaki on December 9th and 10th. Every year, three thousand daikon radishes are brought to the temple from fields in the Kameoka area.
Legend has it that one day Shinran (1173-1263), the founder of the Jodo Shinshu sect, was preaching at Ryōtokuji, and the people were so moved by his teachings that they celebrated with great community feast of cooked daikon. Shinran made inscriptions of a Sanskrit mantra to the deity Amida Nyorai and added this to the fire, thus blessing the daikon. Since that time, the temple has annually celebrated this occasion on December 9th and 10th.
Map showing Daihō’onji
Map showing Ryōtokuji