Masobyo Temple (媽祖廟), also called Ma Zhu Miao, is located in Yokohama’s Chinatown. The young Taoist temple, which opened relatively recently in 2006, enshrines Mazu, the Chinese Goddess of the Sea. Despite its young age, the temple exudes ancient spirituality older than its years. The structure has a geometrical base and is decorated with blue, green, red, and gold detailing. A massive gate welcomes visitors and worshippers alike and is connected to the main temple with a line of red lanterns. Inside Masobyo, a statue of Mazu is cloaked in vibrant attire and wearing an imperial headdress, symbolizing her godly status. The interior is equally as impressive as the outside with exquisite designs covering every surface. Worshippers commonly go to the temple to pray for safe travels since, historically, sailors and fishermen would pray to the goddess for calm seas during their journeys.
History of Mazu: Goddess of the Sea
As a human, Mazu was born in the tenth century and named Lin Mo. According to legend, she was gifted with supernatural abilities, such as predicting the weather, calming storms, and experiencing visions. She dedicated her life to the teachings of Tao and ascended to the heavens at age 28 as a goddess.
Mazu has two demon bodyguards, Qianliyan and Shunfenger. Both demons vowed to protect Mazu after failing to defeat her in combat for her hand in marriage. Inside Masobyo, statues of the demon guardians stand to the left and right of Mazu. One, colored red, is positioned in a listening pose with his hand to his ear, while the green colored one is diligently watching, with eyes that seem to scan the temple.
Worshippers visit Masobyo to pray to Mazu for safe travels, as well as general health and safety. The temple is also a popular spot for tourists due to its traditional architecture and cultural significance in Chinatown. Of course, Mazu’s affinity for keeping travellers safe is appealing to tourists as well. Masobyo’s temple staff are extremely helpful and more than willing to teach visitors the appropriate methods of worship. Individuals who want a closer look at Mazu’s statue are required to buy incense sticks, which they place in five burners. After lighting the incense sticks, they should bow in respect. During New Years, the temple becomes crowded with people participating and watching the festive displays.