Zojoji is a beautiful temple very close to the heart of Tokyo in more ways than one. Physically it is located very close to the important parts of the city and it is one of the temples that has served an important role in the city’s cultural and religious life over many, many years. When Tokyo was called Edo, Zojoji was a truly huge complex. What remains today is quite small, but is still a great place to visit. You can get a little glimpse of what it might it have been like in its heyday and also get some great shots to take home.
The temple is very picturesque when looking towards it, especially with Tokyo Tower behind and nearby. I think Zojoji and Tokyo Tower are in a strange kind of partnership as it is difficult not to have the Tower in a shot, as it so big and really looms over the temple! Every time I go there, I love taking shots of the two together, but there is also other stuff to shoot!
There are two gates there that are very famous. One is named, Sangedatsu, and it is one of the few original structures that remain from when Zojoji was first built. Huge, and painted red it provides another great place for pics and passing through it is supposed to rid you of greed, hatred and foolishness. The other is simply named, Great Gate (or in Japanese "Daimon") that is about five hundred meters away from the temple entrance. While Daimon is only a concrete reconstruction, it is very popular as Tokyo Tower is visible in the background! It is a little special as a bit further along that same road is Daiichi-Keihin, a major road which follows the approximate same route as the historical, "Tokaido" which was the main highway between Kyoto and Edo.
Zojoji is a great place to walk around. I've only talked about a few of the things that you can find there, but it also has a lot of jizo statues (guardian statues of children, travelers and firefighters) that make for nice photos. Also on offer is the Tokugawa Mausoleum where you can see the graves of six of the Japan's fifteen shoguns, plus some of their wives and concubines. Even though it is called a mausoleum, it is really a walled cemetery. The tombs there are very beautiful.
Under the temple you can even visit a gallery which houses a 1/10 scale replica of the Taitokuin mausoleum. The mausoleum housed the remains of the Shogun Hidetada Tokugawa. It existed at Zojoji until 1945 when it was destroyed by bombing. The replica was created for the 1910 Japan-British Exhibition in London and was built given amazing attention to detail. It is just beautiful to look at and is surrounded by wall hangings that are very interesting as well.
There are also two special trees at Zojoji. Ulysses S. Grant (the 18th American president) planted one of them during his visit to Japan in 1879. The other tree was planted by George H. W. Bush when he visited Japan as vice-president in 1982. A memorial to the people who lost their lives in the Hotel New Japan fire, which was huge news in Japan in 1982 can be found near the trees.
You will also find two parks within easy walking distance, Shiba park and Kyu-Shiba-rikyu Gardens. Shiba park doesn’t really have much to offer other than a nice view of Tokyo Tower, however Kyu-Shiba-rikyu Gardens is very nice and well-worth a visit.
So if you are looking for some pictures of one of Tokyo’s most famous temples Zojoji is the place to go. It is big, beautiful and has a lot of things there to keep anyone who visits it with a camera very happy. You can see its website here.
How to get to Zojoji
There are a few train stations that you can use to get to Zojoji. On the JR line, you can use either Tamachi (15 minutes) or Hamamatsucho (10 mintues). On the Mita subway line, you can use either Onarimon (roughly a 10 minute walk and use the A5 exit) or Shibakoen (it is very close so just a couple of minutes, make sure you use the A4 exit) stations. We have a Google map here to help you find your way around:
The temple is open from 6am to 5:30pm, but the grounds are open 24 hours a day.
Zojoji Treasures Gallery is open from 10am to 4pm and closed on Tuesdays.
The Mausoleum is open on public holidays and weekends.
Entry to the grounds of Zojoji is free, but entry to the mausoleum is ￥500 and entry to the gallery is also ￥500. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a discount for buying both tickets.
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