Japan’s third largest bronze Buddha, named Tokyo Daibutsu (or Tokyo’s Big Buddha) is enshrined at the Jodo sect temple of Jourenji. It is thirteen meters high, making it only slightly smaller than the one in Kamakura, and weighs thirty-two tons. While it is a little difficult to get to, about a thirty-minute train ride from Shinjuku, followed by a twenty-minute walk, if you love temples and Buddhist statues it is worth a visit in my opinion.
The temple and Buddha are located in a typical suburb. There is nothing special about it at all. No skyscrapers or roads jammed with cars. Nor any cat cafes. Just houses and trees. If you’ve spent a lot of time in the concrete jungle and need a break from it, a trip out to Tokyo Daibutsu might be just what you need.
There are two entrances to the temple, but the best one is up one of those classic steep staircases, that I think Japan is famous for, but luckily this one isn’t long! Just before the top, the stairs pass through a gate (much like those find at other temples like Zojoji and Shibamata Taishakuten ) that has the four heavenly kings of Buddhism enclosed in it.
Once past the gates, and up the last set of stairs, you’ll be in the middle of the complex. In front of you will be the main hall, while the Buddha will be on your right. The Buddha was enshrined at Jourenji in 1977 to commemorate victims of both the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923 and World War Two. It is completely black and quite impressive with soft features and seated upon a sacred lotus flower pedestal. I think it looks great especially with the trees close around it, making it extremely picturesque.
Of course, Jourenji, like any other Buddhist temple has a bell tower, a few historical graves, a reliquary and some memorials. The grounds of the temple also contain quite a few little statues, my favourite being the seven deities of luck. There is even a pond filled with many hungry carp. It’s the kind of place where a samurai movie could be filmed, if you just disguised some of the backgrounds. And of course, there is a shop there were you can buy amulets, miniature Buddhas, ema and omikuji.
You also need to be aware that there isn’t a great amount to see in the area once you are finished. Next door is a botanical garden, but to be honest, it’s not that great. If you like art, the Itabashi Art Museum is very close, and that does have some good displays. But other than that, there isn’t that much within easy walking distance.
If you are into temples and Buddhas, Jourenji and Tokyo Daibutsu are definitely for you. You can see Itabashi ward’s (Japanese) website about it here.
How to get to Jourenji and Tokyo Daibutsu
There is one train station and two subway stations nearby. The train station is the Tobu-Tojo line which runs from Ikebukuro and next to it is one of the subway stations, Chikatetsu-Akatsuka which is served by both the Fukutoshin and Yurakucho lines. You can also walk there from another subway station, that of Nishi-Takashimadaira which is on the Toei-Mita line. Here is a Google map:
In my experience, Jourenji seems to be a little unusual in that it is open from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm with last entrance 15:45.
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