History of Tsukiji Honganji Temple
Sights to See at Tsukiji Honganji Temple
Events at Tsukiji Honganji Temple

Standing by the world-famous Tsukiji Fish Market is Tsukiji Honganji Temple. Combining the architectural styles of India and Jodo Shinshu Buddhism, Tsukiji Honganji Temple is an exotic piece of architecture rarely seen anywhere else in Japan. The temple is a long-time favorite of locals as a place for wedding ceremonies and burials, as well as a host venue for many events that deserves a place in anybody's Tokyo travel itinerary. This article dives into the history and beauty of Tsukiji Hongaji Temple!

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About Tsukiji Honganji, the Temple near Tsukiji Fish Market

Tsukiji Honganji Temple is a Indian style temple near the Tsukiji market. This building full of exoticism from the exterior has the history of over 400 years. The main temple itself is designated as a National Important Cultural Property.

A Symbol of the Reclaimed Land of Tsukiji

Tsukiji Honganji Temple's Front View

The 12th head of the Jodo-Shinshu Buddhist sect, Junnyo, built the original Honganji Temple in the current Asakusa area in 1617. The Tokugawa government (ruling government of the Edo era; 1603 – 1868) approved of the Asakusa branch as an official branch of the Jodo Shinshu head temple in Kyoto.

A giant fire in 1657 unfortunately burned the temple down, and reconstructing in the same area was not possible due to the government’s restructuring of the streets and districts of Edo (current Tokyo). A large part of the reconstructing plan was reclaiming a part of the Edo bay. This created the land we know of today as Tsukiji, which was chosen as the new location for Honganji. Honganji became an important symbol of Tsukji, with its roof signaling the location of the Edo port for incoming ships.

Reconstruction after the Great Kanto Earthquake

Centuries later, in 1923, the Great Kanto Earthquake once again burned down Tsukiji Honganji Temple. Reconstruction took over a decade, and was finally completed in 1934. The new Honganji Temple, designed by renowned architect Ito Chuta, struck citizens with surprise as it flaunted a rather exotic façade. Inspired by Indian architecture, Ito designed the external appearance in a non-Japanese fashion, while maintaining the traditional Jodo-Shinshu style inside of the temple.

Tsukiji Honganji Temple continues to awe visitors to this day. In 2011, its stone fence was designated as a Tangible Cultural Property. The main hall, the three main gates, and the stone fence were all designated as Important Cultural Properties in 2014.

Entering the Main Hall of Tsukiji Honganji Temple

Main Temple Hall

When you talk about Tsukiji Honganji Temple, the most noticeable characteristic is the exotic atmosphere of the main temple hall.
You may be intimidated by the idea of entering a temple at first, but it is worth a visit especially with the free admission. Tsukiji Honganji Temple shows off a different side of its appeal when seen from inside.

Ancient Indian-Style Architecture

First, let’s take a look at the unique exterior of this temple. From the top to the bottom, the design of this temple is a combination of Indian style and traditional Jodo Shinshu Buddhist architecture, a mixture nobody would expect from a Japanese buddhist temple.
The motifs decorating the roof and entrance of the temple are of linden leaves, and a lotus flower is illustrated in the center. Both the linden and the lotus are staples of Buddhist culture. The lotus is known as a flower of Buddhist paradise, and Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, is said to have been sitting at the roots of a linden tree when he achieved enlightenment.

The Mystical Animal Statues Greet Visitors

The Lion Statues at Tsukiji Honganji Temple. They are similar to the "Komainu" statues of other temples

Several animal statues greet you as you enter the temple. At the steps heading towards the main hall, two guardian lion statues sit on your right and left. Right at the entrance of the main hall are statues of a cow, horse, elephant and peacock. Dispersed throughout the temple grounds are statues of mythical creatures such as the fenghuang, phoenix, blue dragon and white tiger.

The Traditional Temple Interior & Impressive Pipe Organ

The interior of Tsukiji Honganji Temple is designed with a thoroughly Japanese Jodo Shinshu style, but hints of the temple's hybrid style still still show through. Above the entrance door is a beautiful slab of stained glass, and the ceiling is decorated with a chandelier.
Another characteristic feature is the grand pipe-organ placed above, to the left and right. There are two pipe organs that look straight out of a Christian Church. These were donated by the Society for the Promotion of Buddhism, in the hopes that they would play a role in promoting Buddhist music. The instruments continue to be used in concerts, and resonate their impressive notes through the Temple chambers.

Stop by on your Trip to Tsukiji!

You can take the Metor Hibiya Line to the “Tsukiji Station” and get to the temple immediately, or take the Asakusa Line to “Higashi Ginza Station” or the Yuraku Line to “Shin-tomicho Station” and take a 5-minute walk.
The prayer time is from 9:00 to 16:00. The door of the temple will be opened at 6 a.m., and entrance is free. If you are planning to visit the Tsukiji Market or Kabukiza Theatre, it will be a great choice to stop by Tsukiji Honganji Temple!

potential lite shiohara

Events at Tsukiji Honganji Temple

There are many events throughout the year that occur monthly or by season! Here's an introduction to those events:

New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day (Dec. 31st and Jan. 1st)

On New Year’s Eve, 350 people will gather in the temple for the bell to ring out the old year. On New Year’s Day, the courtesy for the new year will start at 6:30.

Hana Matsuri / Floral Festival (April)

The Tsukiji Hana Matsuri, or Floral Festival, is held in early April. This festival celebrates the birth of Buddha with performances of traditional Japanese instruments and parades.

Tsukiji Honganji Bon-odori Festival (July to August)

From the end of July to early August, the annual Tsukiji Honganji Bon Dance Festival is held. Not only can you experience traditional Japanese Bon-Odori dancing, but you can also taste some of the best festival street foods. Wear your yukata for extra Tokyo summer vibes!

Daily / Monthly Events

◾️ Lunch Time Concert (Friday)
Every final Friday of the month, the Lunch Time Concert is held at Tsukiji Honganji’s main hall. From 12:00p.m. to 12:50p.m., the giant pipe organ plays Buddhist hymns and classical music. The pipe organ was brought in in 1970 as a gift to help popularize Buddhist hymns. The concert is free of charge.

◾️ The Day of Shinran (16th of each month)
As the founder of the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist sect, Shinran is greatly revered at Tsukiji Honganji. Every 16th of the month at Tsukiji Honganji is Shinran-sama Day. On Shinran Day, special morning prayer sessions called jinjo (晨朝) are held from 7:00a.m. You also receive a Tsukiji Honganji special anpan, a bread roll filled with red bean paste.

◾️ Saturday English Service
Every Saturday from 5:30p.m. to 7:30p.m., a special English service session is held at the Mombo Hall (聞法ホール). You can check the schedule and service content online.

◾️ Lodging in the first evangelism meeting hall
As unexpected as it may be, Tsukiji Honganji Temple provides lodging. In the First Meeting Hall, there are 12 Japanese rooms and 3 western style rooms, for a total of 15 available rooms. The cost is 5000 yen for single-person lodging, and 9000 yen for pair lodging, and is considerably reasonable for the experience of staying in a temple. Bathrooms and toilets are public for all rooms. If you want to experience living in a temple, please check their official website.

At Tsukiji Honganji Temple, Traditional Japanese Buddhism comes with an Exotic Twist!

Tsukiji Honganji Temple reached its 400-year anniversary in 2017, and continues to take part in initiatives to become a "temple with open doors". Tsukiji Honganji Temple's vision is a return to form in the role of Buddhism - to stand with the daily lives of people, and grant them peace of mind.

The temple of course makes a good destination for tourism, but is also a great place to calm your mind. Visit events here on a weekend, and as many times as you feel like, to turn Tsukiji Honganji into your own personal temple!

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