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When it comes to iconic images of Tokyo Tower, two seem to dominate the search engines. One is an aerial view with the Tokyo skyline; another is a street view from the Jodo-shu Buddhist temple of Zojoji.

Zojoji temple and Tokyo Tower

The temple of Zojoji was founded in 1393. Yet, upon becoming Shogun, the samurai lord Ieyasu Tokugawa proclaimed Zojoji his family’s temple of choice. Consequently, coinciding with 1598’s movement of the Tokugawa shogunate’s center of power to Edo (present-day Tokyo), Zojoji was relocated to its present location. As the Tokugawa family temple, Zojoji was given many privileges. The temple complex covered over 800.000 square meters, 48 sub-temples and 150 schools. Zojoji’s 3.000 priests and novices governed all religious affairs of the prominent Jodo-shu (Pure Land) Buddhist sect.

Zojoji temple grounds
Zojoji fell into decline when the Meiji Restoration brought an end to the Tokugawa Shogunate’s power while anti-Buddhist sentiments were also on the rise. The Tokyo Air Raids of World War II turned most of the temple complexes buildings to ashes. Although some have been rebuilt after the war, very little remains of the immense complex from the Tokugawa Era.

Zojoji temple grounds

Nonetheless, Zojoji remains a site budding with a beautiful historic atmosphere. Its two impressive gateways, Sangedatsu and Daimon, each have their own unique story attached to them apart from serving as architectural marvels for any photograph. The bright red Sangedatsu is said to free you from sins such as greed, hatred and foolishness; while the Daimon welcomes you to the sin-free area to attend to your religious duties. Along Daimon lies the Daiichi-Keihin which follows the ancient Tokaido highway that ran between Kyoto and Tokyo in Japan’s feudal era.

With heritage as the family temple of the Tokugawa Shogunate, the complex also houses the mausoleum of six of its fifteen shoguns with their wives. Now, the title “mausoleum” may seem quite impressive; but in reality, it is in fact a small walled-off Buddhist cemetery. There are guided tours in Japanese at around 10:00, 11:00, 13:00 and 14:30.

Aerial view of Zojoji temple in Tokyo

 

Access, opening hours and fees

Since Zojoji temple is close to the heart of Tokyo, you have quite a few options to get there. Using JR you can go to Tamachi Station or Hamamatsucho Station. From both stations the temple is a short 15-minute walk. If you were to take the Mita Subway Line to Onarimon or Shibakoen it is even closer: follow the signs inside the station to make sure you take the appropriate exit.

Tokyo Tower and Zojoji temple

Although the temple grounds are freely accessable 24/7, the temple is open from 9:00 to 17:00 and the Treasure Gallery from 10:00 to 17:00 (closed on Tuesdays). There is a minor entrance fee of 500 yen for the mausuleum and of 700 yen for the treasure gallery. To see both, simply get a combined discount ticket for 1.000 yen.

    
Name Zojoji Temple
Category Temple
Address 4-7-35 Shibakoen, Minato, Tokyo 105-0011
Access [map]4-7-35 Shibakoen, Minato, Tokyo 105-0011[/map]
Opening Hours All hours
Price Range Free; 500 Yen for Mausuleum; 700 Yen for Treasure Gallery
Payment options Cash
Brian Kold

Brian Kold

Hi! My name is Brian from the Netherlands. Since arriving in Japan about two years ago I have been lucky to have had the opportunity to not only explore this amazing country, but also to practice my beloved hobby, kendo. Every day I have met wonderful people each with their own story and perhaps one day when you come to Japan you too can share your story!

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