People pray for good health in ancient ritual at western Japan temple

A group of supplicants gathered at a temple in the western Japanese city of Otsu on Sunday to take part in an ancient tradition that is said to bring good health and longevity.

The Houroku-kyu ritual is believed to have been spread by the renowned Buddhist monk Kobo Daishi, also known as Kukai, who lived in the 8th and 9th centuries. The event takes place at Iwamadera Temple every May and October.

Participants received an unglazed ceramic plate known as a houroku, which was holding a small pile of smoldering moxa, taken from the dried leaves of certain plants. They placed the plate on their heads, where it is said to stimulate an acupuncture point that improves nerve activity and removes worldly desires.

A man from Osaka Prefecture said he prayed for good health so that he doesn't become a burden to his child or anyone else. He said the heat from the plate was bearable at first but later got so intense that he found himself wishing the monk's sermon would end quickly.