Many people think of Kyoto and Nara when they think of shrines and temples, but actually there are plenty of temples with history in Tokyo. Here are 5 of them that you should check out.
Proper name: San Enzan Koudoin Zojoji
Zojoji, a temple right next to Tokyo Tower, has more than 600 years of history and is a temple of the Jodo sect of Buddhism. It is closely tied to the Tokugawa family that were generations of shogun during the Edo shogunate, so 6 out of their 15 shogun members have their graves here. It's famous for being a place where you can see traditional architecture and Tokyo Tower in the same gaze, but what you should definitely look at is the San Gedatsumon that was built in 1622. It's said that if you pass through the gate, you'll be liberated from the three pollutions of covetousness, anger, and foolishness. This is a rare piece of architecture that is one of the few that survived the common fires of the flourishing Edo period, so it is registered as a national important cultural property.
Proper name: Taishakuten Daikyoji
This Nichiren temple, built in 1629, is also known as Shibamata Taishakuten. What you must see is Taishaku-do right at the front of the grounds. It's made of unpainted wood so it might seem plain, but when you get close enough to see the details you'll notice intricate carvings. The decorative carvings on the outside of the inner shrine are particularly impressive. The 10 wooden panels that have 10 stories explaining the Lotus Sutra are so beautiful you'll be speechless at the sight.
The road leading up to Taishakuten is full of shops selling the local specialties of kusadango (mugwort-flavored rice dumplings) and salt-flavored rice crackers, so it's usually very lively. It's nice that you can shop after you visit the shrine.
Proper name: Gochisan Henjouin Sojiji
It's said that Sojiji, also known as Nishi-Arai Daishi, was begun by the founder of the Shingon sect of Buddhist, Kukai, in 826. He was preaching around Kanto in order to instruct people on Shingon, and after he heard the story of the Kannon Bodhisattva having lived in this area, he decided to build the temple. It's considered one of the three temples to ward off bad luck, along with Kawasaki Daishi and Kanpukuji. Sojiji has a cedar-stick burning prayer session six times a day. You can pray for things other than warding off bad luck, like for good fortune, business success, the fulfillment of your earnest wishes, and more, so please participate in the cedar-burning prayer. You'll surely feel refreshed. *If you participate in the cedar-stick burning prayer, a separate fee starting at 5,000 JPY is necessary.
Proper name: Shinreizan Shitchi-in Gokokuji
Gokokuji is an interesting temple by Gokokuji Station on the Yurakucho subway line. This shrine was built in 1681 as a prayer by the 5th shogun of the Edo Shogunate, Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, to honor the wishes of his mother, Keishouin. The deity worshipped here, Nyoirin Kannon, makes this shrine number 13 in the Edo Sanjusankasho, 33 temples dedicated to the goddess Kannon in Tokyo. There are various cultural assets on the grounds, including the main temple that was built in 1697 and the Gekkouden that was built in the Momoyama period (the later half of the 16th century). Gokokuji is also famous for having many Buddha statues. This is definitely a recommended temple for people that want to see many Buddhas around Tokyo.
5. Ueno Kaneiji
Proper name: Toueizan Endonshikan Kaneiji
Kaneiji was built in 1625 by the priest Tenkai, praying for the safety of the Tokugawa shogunate and piece for the people of Edo, in the north-east shadow of Edo Castle. It was the family temple for the Tokugawa clan, so 6 of the 15 Tokugawa shogun sleep eternally at Kaneiji. At its height in the last century of the Edo period (from mid-18th century to mid-19th century), the grounds were said to be almost twice the size of the current Ueno Park. Currently, in and around Ueno Park, some buildings that were formerly part of Kaneiji still exist. It's recommended that you look for places related to Kaneiji as you take a stroll around Ueno Park.
There are plenty of other temples worth seeing in Tokyo. If you get the chance, please take a tour around various Tokyo temples.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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