Embracing Kangiten of Torimi Shrine in Shiroi, Japan

Kangiten is a strange deity. The Japanese Buddhist equivalent of Hindu god Ganesha, he also takes the form of an elephant-headed deity, but in twofold, in an act of embrace.

Traditionally, the deity is feared and respected as a remover of obstacles and bringer of success. His effigy (if any), however, is always enshrined in the temple treasury never to be shown to worshippers. This is believed to be due to the sensual depiction of the embracing deities, and the name meaning “pleasure-deity” doesn’t quite help.

At Torimi Shrine in the town of Shiroi, however, there is a stone effigy of the embracing Kangiten on public display. Erected in 1771, this statue once belonged to Sairin-ji Temple in the same town, which is located two miles away from the shrine today. Now free of the temple and its religious restrictions, you can finally come face to face with the mysterious, erotic god Kangiten. 

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