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SEISHOJI TEMPLE: AN OASIS OF ZEN BUDDHISM IN CENTRAL TOKYO

Seishoji (青松時) is one of the largest and most prestigious temples in Japan, but surprisingly it is not a popular tourist attraction. Actually, I found it after a whole year of living and wandering in Tokyo! It is also a very popular place to practice Zazen, which means “seated meditation”.

Seishoji and sky scrapers

Seishoji was one of the three majors in the Japanese line of Chinese Caodong school in Edo (Tokyo’s former name). It was founded in the fifteenth century by priests of the Soto sect of Zen Buddhism and moved to Mount Atago in 1600. Two skyscrapers, Atago Green Hills Mori Tower and Forest Tower, guard both sides of the temple like giant 21st century komainu, almost identical pair of lion-dogs meant to ward off evil spirits. This pattern is Buddhist in origin and has a symbolic meaning. Sure enough, it would be much better to leave the surrounding area untouched and keep the temple as a great observation point, but considering the lack of space in Tokyo, it seems like a good architectural decision. Just check out this fusion of ancient and modern architecture! By the way, while Mori tower is house to offices, Forest tower is a residential area. Fancy living there, high in the sky, and being able to visit a green oasis in the middle of the urban desert anytime you like!

The vast temple territory also includes a bamboo grove, a spring and a statue of Horin Dai-Kannon.Horin Dai-Kannon

In 1922 all the temple buildings (the Main Sanctuary, the Founder’s Shrine, the Lecture Hall, the Meditation Hall, the Main Gateway and the Priests’ Quarters, etc.) were destroyed by the Great Kanto Earthquake. Some of them were rebuilt immediately, some of them are still under construction. Also, a park was created together with the Minato Ward council as a part of an Atago Area Redevelopment Project.

A sculptor and professor of Tokyo University, Yabuuchi Satoshi created numerous wooden and bronze statues for Seishoji. His other famous work is Nara Prefecture’s regional mascot Sento-kun, a cute young boy who has the antlers of a deer. Yabuuchi produced statues of the three founders of the Soto sect, which are placed inside the Founder’s Shrine, a large dragon-shaped fountain placed in the park, statues of 16 Arahats (Buddha’s disciples) on the second floor of the gateway, and of course the statue of little Buddha on a lotus flower, surrounded by four adorable boys with golden pots, riding four elephants.

Boy with golden potAnd, at the main gate to the temple we are greeted by 3-meter tall wooden statues of Four Heavenly Kings: Jikoku-ten, Zoujou-ten, Koumoku-ten and Tamon-ten. Personally, I have a soft spot for Tamon-ten, also known as Bishamon-ten, or King of the North. He is said to be the most powerful of the Four.

Even if you are not a big fan of Buddhist temples, don’t miss a chance to visit and enjoy the humorous and eye-catching art of Yabuuchi Satoshi!

Buddha on lotus flower

Information

Seishoji (青松時)
Address: 2 Chome-4-7 Atago, Minato, Tokyo 105-0002
Telephone: 03-3431-3087
Access 1: 4 minutes walk from Onarimon Station [Mita Subway Line]
Access 2: 5 minutes walk from Kamiyacho Station [Hibiya Subway Line]
Access 3: 10 minutes walk from Toranomon Station [Ginza Subway Line]
Distance to airport: 15 km from Haneda Airport
Religious info:
HP:
Map:

By Olga Kaneda

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