We all know that Mumbai has Portuguese and British influence with the Marathi culture at its heart. People from coastal Karnataka have set up Udupi restaurants in Mumbai, and people came here to try their luck in Bollywood and business. There is also Japanese influence in Mumbai very few people know about.
The population of Mumbai is large and is as much as a small country. Through most of its history, people have come in droves in search of a better life and an identity. It is cosmopolitan, and people of different faiths have lived in harmony.
Mumbai had its ups and downs, and some of the downs could have been avoided. Some of those downs include terrorist attacks, natural disasters and communal riots.
Over the years, people of the city have learned a lot from these disasters and have come together in times of challenges and have learned to respect each other more. There are many organizations that promote peace. One such organization is the Nipponzan Myohoji order.
Nipponzan Myohoji (Buddha Temple)
Worlinaka, is a busy neighbourhood in Mumbai and it has a Japanese history. Situated on the busy Dr. Annie Besant Road is the Nipponzan Myohoji or the Japanese Buddhist Temple.
- Location: Dr. Annie Besant Road
- Distance: From airport: 15.7 KM, From CST: 8.1 KM
- Time: 6 AM to 7 AM & 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM
It is easy to miss this place if you do not have your GPS on. If you are riding past it, you may go past it and not notice it. The temple hides behind a Bougainvillea tree. There is a rusty old board that says “Nipponzan Myohoji” next to the temple gate.
Nichida Tsu Fujii or Fuji Guruji, founder of the Nippozan Myohoji order, founded the temple in 1952. He constructed the temple based on the prophecy of a Japanese monk, Mahabodhisatva Nicherin.
Today the temple is looked after by Bhikshu Morita, the resident monk, who’s been in India for over 30 years. He oversees things inside this temple. It is now maintained by the Birla family. Recent renovations to the temple was funded by the Birla family I was told.
This inscription tempts me to learn to Japanese. The temple structure is of stone and marble. A Buddhist visitor to the temple told that this is the biggest Buddha Vihara temple in Mumbai and it is a new one.
The older one is now a Dharamshala, a kindergarten school for poor kids. People of all faiths and ethnicities, including Hindus, Parsees, Christians, Dalits, Tibetans, Chinese, and many others visit the temple every day.
The reason behind the founding of the temple is that Maha Bodhisattva Nicherin, a Japanese monk, a hundred years ago said that the hope for humanity lies in India. The walls of the temple are etched with artwork that depict the life of the Buddha.
The temple’s role in the Mumbai riots of 1993
In 1993, Mumbai was rocked with violence. The protest against the Babri masjid demolition became violent that killed almost 1000 people around the city. This clipping of a newspaper page s hows the devastation that hit the city in the 1993 communal riots.
Such an event and the following riots should never have happened and should never happen again. In the clipping at the temple, there is a picture of a Buddhist monk standing in the middle of the street asking to keep peace.
Media mentions of the temple
Another media mention of the temple. Mumbai is more peaceful these days. This temple has always called for peace. Mahatma Gandhi too had a connection with this temple.
It has artwork on the walls, and on the ceiling. The place is calm and will relax your senses. The priest reads from the book every morning, and in the evening. The Daimoku chant, or the mantra has a soothing effect on listeners.
See the Japanese graves
Another lesser known site is the Japanese graves, known as Nippojin Bochi. This cemetery is the last resting place of the geishas, or Japanese prostitutes that came to Mumbai.
These geishas came to the city during the early 1910s along with Japanese businessmen to service British businessmen. Some of them stayed till world war 2 ended and whoever passed on has a memory here.
Read Conde Nast for more information about all the cemeteries in Mumbai that you can visit.
Anymore Japanese influence in Mumbai?
Bangalore has the biggest Japanese population in India. Yet, the Japanese influence does not end with the temple.
Mumbai Nihonjin Gakkō or Japanese School, Mumbai is in Powai and it is exclusive for Japanese kids numbering 30. One of the two Japanese school that operates in India, the Japanese government funds the school.
The school employs Japanese teachers and the medium of instruction is Japanese. There are few native teachers with knowledge of the Japanese language too.
Know more of Mumbai’s Japanese culture? Comment now.
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