Zojoji Temple is a Jodo-shu Buddhist temple in central Tokyo, Japan, and is the main temple of the Jodo-shu Chinzei sect of Buddhism in the Kanto region. The temple grounds are next to Tokyo Tower and consist of impressive structures, including a mausoleum of the Tokugawa family and a small museum.
The beautiful temple has a rich history dating back to the 14th century, making it one of the oldest temples in Tokyo. It was built late 14th century in the Kamakura period and was relocated to its current site in the late 16th century during the Edo period. The temple has survived multiple fires and earthquakes throughout its long history and has been renovated and restored numerous times.
Today, Zojoji Temple is a popular attraction and a religious center for Jodo-shu Buddhism. You can explore the temple grounds, including the Daiden, the main hall of the temple, and the Tokugawa family mausoleum. The temple also hosts events and ceremonies throughout the year, including the annual New Year’s Eve bell-ringing ceremony, and is a popular cherry blossom viewing spot.
And if you are wondering. Yes, Zojoji did make our list of the 14 best shrines and temples in Tokyo.
Zojoji Temple, in the heart of Tokyo, has a history that dates back to 1393. It was founded as an orthodox and fundamental nembutsu seminary for Jodo shu in the Kanto region. The temple was originally in the Ueno area of Tokyo, but it was relocated to its present site in 1598 after Ieyasu Tokugawa, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate, entered Edo (present-day Tokyo) in 1590 to establish his provincial government.
During the Edo period, Zojoji Temple became the chief temple for the Jodo sect of Japanese Buddhism in the Kanto region. It was also closely associated with the Tokugawa clan, the rulers of Japan during that time. Six of the Tokugawa shoguns were buried in the Taitoku-in Mausoleum in the temple grounds.
Despite its association with the Tokugawa clan, Zojoji Temple suffered significant damage during World War II. The temple was rebuilt in the post-war years, and it continues to be an important religious center in Tokyo.
Today, Zojoji Temple is open to the public, and you can explore its impressive structures and learn about its rich history. The temple grounds include a mausoleum of the Tokugawa family, a small museum, and other buildings and structures that offer a glimpse into Japan’s past.
Zojoji Temple is known for its impressive architecture, which combines traditional Japanese and modern elements. The main gate, Sangedatsumon, is a designated national treasure and is the oldest wooden building in Tokyo, dating back to 1622. The gate features intricate carvings and is an excellent example of Japanese architectural design.
The temple’s main hall, Daiden, was rebuilt in 1974 and features a modern design with a unique roof shaped like a pyramid. Inside, you can see a statue of Amida Buddha, the principal image of worship in the Jodo sect of Buddhism.
Another notable structure on the temple grounds is the Taitoku-in Mausoleum, where six of the Tokugawa shoguns are buried. The mausoleum features a mix of Japanese and Western architectural styles and is a designated national treasure.
You can also see a small museum on the temple grounds, which features exhibits on the history and culture of Zojoji Temple and the Jodo sect of Buddhism.
Sights and Attractions
The temple’s main hall, or Daiden, is an impressive structure that houses a statue of Amida Buddha, the principal figure of the Jodo sect of Buddhism. You can also see the Sentai Kosodate Jizo, a garden of 1,000 statues of Jizo, a bodhisattva that is believed to protect children and travelers.
The Sangedatsumon Gate is another notable landmark of Zojoji Temple. This gate is one of the few remaining structures that survived the bombing of Tokyo during World War II. The gate is a National Treasure of Japan and is considered one of the finest examples of traditional Japanese architecture.
You can also explore the temple’s graveyard, which is the final resting place of many prominent figures from Japanese history. The graveyard is particularly beautiful during the cherry blossom season when the trees are in full bloom.
Finally, the temple’s location at the base of Tokyo Tower gives you a unique perspective and makes it a great photo spot, especially during the Sakura season. From the temple grounds, you can see the tower rising above the surrounding buildings, creating a striking contrast between the old and the new.
festivals And Events at Zojoji Temple
Steeped in history and spirituality, Zojoji Temple in Tokyo’s Minato ward is not just a hub for religious activities, but also a venue for a variety of fascinating events. These celebrations and observances highlight Japan’s rich culture and traditions while providing a unique and meaningful experience for visitors. Below are four notable events held at Zojoji Temple.
New Year’s Eve Bell Ringing (Joya no Kane)
Zojoji Temple hosts a grand event on New Year’s Eve known as Joya no Kane, or the ringing of the temple bell. This ritual is carried out 108 times, representing the 108 earthly desires, according to Buddhist belief, which cause human suffering. With each bell ring, it’s believed one earthly desire is eliminated, purifying the mind for the New Year. The powerful reverberations of the bell, coupled with the serene temple atmosphere, make this a memorable way to ring in the New Year.
Zenjoji’s Candle Night is a breathtaking spectacle held around the summer solstice. Thousands of candles are lit across the temple grounds, providing an enchanting display and a symbolic reminder of the importance of energy conservation. The temple’s ancient architecture, illuminated by the warm candlelight, offers a striking contrast to Tokyo’s modern skyline.
O-Bon, a major event in the Japanese calendar, is a Buddhist observance honoring the spirits of ancestors. During O-Bon, Zojoji Temple holds a series of traditional rituals and events, which may include ceremonial dances known as Bon Odori and the release of floating lanterns or toro nagashi. This festival provides a deep insight into Japan’s spiritual customs and familial reverence.
Jizo-Bon is a special ceremony held at Zojoji Temple to honor Jizo Bosatsu, a popular Bodhisattva who is known to care for the deceased, especially children and babies. The temple grounds house a poignant display of stone Jizo statues, often dressed in red bibs, to represent unborn children. This event allows families to remember and honor the souls of their lost little ones.
The Temple is considered to be one of the most culturally significant Buddhist temples in Japan. As stated It is the head temple of the Jodo sect of Japanese Buddhism in Kanto, and it has a long and interesting history dating back to 1393.
One of the most notable aspects of Zojoji Temple is its relationship with the Tokugawa clan, the rulers of Japan during the Edo period. Six of the Tokugawa shoguns are buried in the Taitoku-in Mausoleum in the temple grounds.
Also, the temple’s Sangedatsumon (main gate) is also the oldest wooden building in Tokyo, dating back to 1622.
Aside from its historical significance, Zojoji Temple is also known for its beautiful architecture and stunning gardens. You can explore the temple grounds and admire the impressive structures, including the mausoleum of the Tokugawa family and a small museum.
The temple also hosts events and festivals throughout the year, such as the Shibaura Festival.
Overall, Zojoji Temple is an important cultural landmark in Tokyo and a destination for anyone interested in Japanese history and Buddhism.
How to Get There
Zojoji Temple is in the Minato ward of Tokyo, Japan. It is easy to get to.
If you’re taking the subway, you can get off at Onarimon Station or Shibakoen Station on the Mita Subway Line. Alternatively, you can take the Oedo Subway Line to Daimon Station. From there, it’s just a short walk to the temple.
If you prefer to take the JR train, you can get off at Hamamatsucho Station on the JR Yamanote and JR Keihin-Tohoku lines. From there, it’s about a 10-minute walk to the temple.
For those who want to drive to Zojoji Temple, there is a paid parking lot available nearby. However, use public transportation due to the limited parking space in the area.
Once you arrive at the temple, you can easily navigate your way around using the map provided at the entrance.
The temple is open daily from 6:00 am to 5:00 pm, and admission is free. However, there are fees for certain areas of the temple, such as the Treasure Gallery and Tokugawa Shogunate Graveyard. The Treasure Gallery is open from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, and admission is ¥700 for adults. The Tokugawa Shogunate Graveyard is open from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm, and admission is ¥500 for adults.
Visitors should be aware that Zojoji Temple is an active place of worship, and they should be respectful of the temple and its visitors. Visitors should remove their shoes before entering certain areas of the temple, such as the main hall, and should dress modestly. Photography is permitted in most areas of the temple, but visitors should be mindful of other visitors and not disturb them while taking photos.
For those interested in learning more about the temple and its history, guided tours are available in English and Japanese. The tours are led by knowledgeable guides who can provide insight into the temple’s history and significance. The tours are free, but donations are appreciated.
|Name (English)||Zojoji Temple|
|Address||4-7-35 Shibakoen, Minato City, Tokyo 105-0011, Japan|
|Ticket Cost||Free admission (except for Daiden museum: ¥700)|
|Times||Temple Grounds: Always open; Daiden museum: 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM|
|Website||Official Website (English)|
|Nearby Luxury Hotels||1. The Prince Park Tower Tokyo: 0.3 km (Book now)|
|2. Shiba Park Hotel: 0.6 km (Book now)|
|Nearby Mid-range Hotels||1. Hotel Mielparque Tokyo: 0.5 km (Book now)|
|2. Hotel The Celestine Tokyo Shiba: 0.7 km|
|Nearby Budget Hotel||1. Tokyo Shiba Tofuya Ukai: 0.3 km|
|Nearby Attractions||1. Tokyo Tower (0.4 km)|
|2. Shiba Park (0.5 km)|
|3. Tokyo Prince Hotel (0.4 km)|
|4. Kyu Shiba Rikyu Garden (1.3 km)|
|5. Roppongi Hills (2.2 km)|