About Zōjō-ji Temple
Standing next to Tokyo Tower, Zojoji Temple (増上寺, Zōjōji) is the head temple of the Jodo sect of Japanese Buddhism in the Kanto Region.
The temple was built in the year 1393 and moved to its present location in 1598 by Tokugawa Ieyasu who selected it as his family temple. A mausoleum of the Tokugawa family can be found on the temple grounds. Most of Zojoji’s buildings are recent reconstructions except for the main entrance gate, the Sangedatsumon, which has survived the many past fires, earthquakes and wars and dates from 1622.
Getting to Zōjō-ji 増上寺
We walked about 5 minutes along a cute street, with all the autumn leaves on the ground.
Zōjō-ji 増上寺 Entrance Gate (Sangedatsumon)
As the front face of Zojoji, this gate strikes passersby as majestic and magnificent. This wooden gate, measuring 21 meters in height, 28.7 meters in width and 17.6 meters in depth, was built in 1622, and today remains the only architectural reminder of the early days of the Edo Period when the original Zojoji was constructed on a prodigious scale. The gate has been designated by the State as important cultural property. Its name – Sangedatsumon – means a gate (mon) for getting delivered (gedatsu) from three (san) earthly states of mind – greed, anger and stupidity.
The vermilion-lacquered gate is a two-story structure. Enshrined in the upper story are image of Shakyamuni Buddha, Samantabhadra and Manjusri bodhisattvas, and the sixteen arhat disciples of the Buddha, which were created by Buddhist image sculptors of Kyoto when Zojoji was built.
Zōjō-ji 増上寺 Daiden (Hondo: Main Hall)
Daiden (Hondo), which forms the core of the Buddhist structures of Zojoji, was rebuilt in 1974 by combining the traditional Buddhist temple architecture with a cream of modern architecture. Enshrined in this hall is a large main image (honzon) of Amida Buddha (made during the Muromachi Period), with an image of Great Teacher Shan-tao (who perfected China’s Jodo (Pure Land) Buddhism) at its right and an image of Honen Shonin (who founded Japan’s Jodo Shu) at its left. These images are deeply revered by many people who worship at Zojoji. Daiden has been reconstructed according to an innovative architectural design that enables it to serve not only as a fundamental nembutsu seminary of the headquarters of Jodo shu, but also as a site for all manner of religious rites and memorial services.
Daibonsho (Big Bell) ダイボン書
This bell was completed in 1673 after repeating casting work as many as seven times. This giant bell, boasting a diameter of 1.76 meters, a height of 3.33 meters and a weight of 15 tons, is renowned as one of the Big Three Bells of the Edo Period.
The bell is tolled twice a day – six times each in the early morning and in the evening. It not only chimes the hours, but also serves to purify one hundred and eight earthly passions (bonno), which lead people astray, through an exhortation, repeated six times a day, to profound equanimity.
Zōjō-ji 増上寺 Gardens
In the gardens are lots of Jizo dolls, which we worked out are probably prayer dolls for those that have passed on.
Daimon Station 大門駅
After we looked around the temple for about half an hour, we headed off to Daimon Station to catch the subway to Asakusa.
To see where else I went on Day 1 in Tokyo, please see my summary page.
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