Myōhōji might be one Tokyo’s lesser-known temples and it might be a little difficult to get to if you don’t like long walks, but don’t let that discourage you from visiting it. This temple, in my opinion, is certainly one of the best in the city. True, it’s not as big as some others in the city, but it is very attractive with some good history and a couple of other little surprises that you can find out if you read on. If you are into temples, I highly recommend it.
I think Myōhōji is what a classic Japanese temple should look like. Lots of bare wood everywhere. Many intricate carvings of mythical creatures on the ceilings and some bright red oni on sides of the roof. Some big corridors that connect the major buildings. The roof of the soshido (the building dedicated to the founder, in this case, Nichiren) has that typical Japanese-style roof. The whole place really has an air of wabi-sabi about it (if you don’t know that word then you can read this article on Wikipedia about it).
The history? English architect Josiah Conder (the designer of the mansions at both Kyu-Furukawa Gardens and Kyu-Iwasaki Gardens) also has connections with Myōhōji! He designed the iron gate that is near the entrance. The ironwork on it simply amazing. Lastly, there are two guardian deities stand on either side of the main gate that are thought to have been donated by the fourth Shogun, Ietsuna Tokugawa.
Myōhōji is also famous for its hydrangea garden which you can find in an area near the cemetery at the rear of the complex. If you are in Tokyo or ever visit the city in early summer and love these flowers, this garden is a great one to visit. There is even an old gate that has lanterns and hydrangeas lining the path to it on both sides. When the flowers are in bloom, it is very, very beautiful.
One thing I think most people can enjoy at Myōhōji, and is rather unique to it, is New Year’s Eve. On the night, you can ring the temple’s cast iron bell that was made in 1725, along with a huge crowd of people that turn up for that very reason. It’s a good event but if you go there, especially to ring the bell, just make sure you get there by 2 am because that is the time the last person will be allowed to join the line.
Behind the soshido you’ll find an area filled with trees, memorials and statues. Just pack some insect repellant in summer, as you will probably find a lot of mosquitoes there in summer. I like it though, as it is very peaceful and very shady which makes it a great place to just sit and relax or walk around and think.
The last thing I love about Myōhōji is that as there are no major train stations nearby, you’ll notice a lack of crowds, which makes it so different to Sensoji or Zojoji and Meiji shrine. So, if you don’t like crowds, or just need a break from them, then Myohoji is the perfect place for you, as long as you don’t mind a 15-minute walk from the closest station.
You can see the temple’s website here.
How to get to Myōhōji
Use the Marunouchi subway line to get to either Shin-Koenji or Higashi-Koenji stations. From both stations, it is about a fifteen-minute walk. Here is a Google map for you:
The gates to the temple are usually open from 5 am to 5:30 pm.
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