The Southern city of Kobe has long been known for its diversity due to its overseas settlers from centuries ago. Kobe has churches, mosques and temples of different beliefs. The Kobe Mosque is one of the biggest mosques in Japan. There are also a Gurudwara (Sikhs’ holy place) and a Jain temple near by the mosque.
Jainism is one of the Indic religions which originated on the Indian sub-continent. It is similar to Buddhism. In this, a ‘Thirthankara’ is a sage whose wisdom has brought humanity closer to the spiritual world. There are supposedly 24 Thirthankaras and the last one is a guy named ‘Mahaveer’. Mahaveer’s life story is similar to that of Buddha. He was born in a royal family in the same Indian state or province named ‘Bihar’ where Buddha is said to have lived most of his life and left all material possessions to become a monk. Mahaveer and Buddha were contemporaries. Mahaveer traveled all around India and at the age of 72, he attained Nirvana (liberation of soul from body). The philosophy of Jainism is that one should leave all material possessions and start travel to gain spiritual wisdom. Many highly adherent Jain monks till this date do not wear any clothes and they constantly travel from city to city. The pictures of Mahaveer look alike Buddha and most of their teachings also look similar.
Jainism is a completely new thing to a Japanese ear. It is mostly practiced by third and futher generation Indians in Kobe who are a very small minority. Indians in Kobe are one of the earliest Indian settlers in Japan. They do not belong to the new wave of IT engineer diaspora. They are pearl and diamond traders. In the 50s, many Japanese students lived and studied Jainism in India and translated most of the works into Japanese.
It is said that there are only 3 Jain temples in entire Japan. These are very small yet beautifully carved temples, most of them made of marble stone. The Kobe Jain Temple seems to be the most popular one in Japan. It is located in the calm neighborhood of Kitanozaka, Kitano-cho in Kobe. It was built in 1985 by some Indian businessmen. There is an Indian club too nearby where cricket matches and Indian movies are shown. This club has a history of almost 100 years.
The temple is being covered by the Kobe tourism department too and is a must visit when you are in Kobe.
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