Translated by Hilary Keyes
Tokyo's Ikegami Honmonji: 5-Storied Pagoda And Incredible Greenery
Written by Mitsuhisa Kanoo
Ikegami Honmonji is a Buddhist temple located in Tokyo's Ota ward. This history-rich temple, built in 1282, is only a 30-40 minute train ride from either Tokyo or Shinjuku station.
What is Ikegami Honmonji?
Ikegami Honmonji is a Buddhist temple located in the Ota ward of Tokyo. It was built in the place where, in 1282, the Buddhist priest Nichiren (1222-1282) died. Nichiren is known as the founder of Nichiren sect. Within Honmonji's greenery filled grounds, visitors can see the Daido (great hall), Gojunoto (five-storied pagoda), and Hoto (two-storied Buddhist tower).
Ikegami Station on the Tokyu Ikegami line is the closest station to Honmonji; it takes about 30-40 minutes to reach Ikegami Station from either Tokyo or Shinjuku station, or there is also a bus route available via Shinagawa Station. After about a ten minute walk from the station itself, you will reach Somon, the temple gate. Walk through this gateway and then up the stone steps - then you will find yourself by the Niomon and Daido ahead of you.
Strolling Through Greenery Filled Grounds
After climbing the stone stairs, you will find yourself on top of a small hill. From here the ground evens out, and as you walk towards the main pathway, you will come to Niomon, the main temple gate. The original gate was burnt down during an air raid in 1945, but was rebuilt in 1977. On both sides of this majestic vermilion gate stand Deva King statues, the guardian deities of the temple.
Once you have passed under the Niomon, follow the path on the right. Located just behind the lush green trees is the famed five-storied pagoda, which is a recognized Important Cultural property of Japan. Towering into the sky, the orderly structure of this building is simply stunning. This pagoda, built in 1607, stands at about 30 meters tall. Although visitors may not enter the pagoda, there are many Buddhist statues and other works preserved inside.
Now head back towards Niomon, and proceed along the path once again, until you reach the Daido, or Great Hall. This building was also unfortunately burnt down in the air raid in 1945, but was rebuilt in 1964. The interior is very spacious; the sound of the footsteps of the worshipers is the only sound that echoes in these walls. Nichiren is revered in the center here.
If you look up, you will notice on the ceiling the Mikan no Ryuu (the Incomplete Dragon), a work begun by the master of modern Japanese painting, Kawabata Ryushi (1885-1966). Please don't forget to check it out!
See the Curious Wooden Hoto, and Other Important Cultural Assets
Within the grounds, there is a bell tower where two bells now hang. The bell in front, the old bell, is a cultural asset of Ota ward. Based on an inscription, the old bell, which was recast in 1714 after a fire, was originally donated to the temple in 1647. Although it isn't rung now, this bell was once used in order to announce the time to the people of the area.
Head to the right of the bell tower and you will see another of Ota's cultural properties, the Kyuzo or scripture house. Rebuilt in 1784, inside you will find the rinzo, a rotating shelf for sutras, which is where completed Buddhist scriptures were offered. The small, octagonal rinzo, made to look like a small temple hall, is definitely worth seeing.
Take a short walk from the Kyuzo, to the left of the parking lot; just beyond the thick grove and down the stairs you will find conspicuously standing out amid the trees a red building. This is the Important Cultural Property, the Hoto, a two-storied Buddhist tower.
The Hoto is one architectural type for pagoda, which resembles a grave. It is here that Nichiren's nenju or crystal rosary is enshrined. Reparative work was completed on this structure in 2010, which is the reason for its fresh, colorful appearance. The contrast between the Hoto and its surroundings is very striking. Standing 18 meters tall, it is nominally the smallest, but tallest historical wooden structure in Japan. If you have time, make sure to visit this spot too.
Ikegami Honmonji is both a history and nature rich, quiet place, full of historically important cultural assets you cannot see anywhere else. As admission here is free, this is a must-see for anyone interested in Japanese Buddhism or history!
Please visit Ikegami and go through the gate of Honmonji Temple.
Ikegami Honmonji Temple
Address: Tokyo, Ota, Ikegami 1-1-1
Hours: Always open
Nearest Station: Ikegami Station, Tokyu Ikegami Line
Access: 10 minute walk from Ikegami Station
Website: Ikegami Honmon-ji