Precincts of Zojoji
Zojoji (増上寺), located in central Tokyo, is one of the most prominent Buddhist temple in Tokyo. Founded in 1393, it is also one of the highest ranking temples in Jodo Buddhism (Pure Land Buddhism) since it was one of the three temples where the graves of Tokugawa shoguns were placed. Though most of the temple buildings, including shoguns' gorgeous mausoleums, were burned down in WWII, the main gate and several other peripheral buildings still stand to this day.
It's a 5-minute walk from Toei Subway Mita Line Onarimon Station or Shiba-koen Station, a 5-min walk from Daimon Station of the Toei Oedo Line or Asakusa Line, or a 10-min walk from JR Hamamatsucho Station
Sangedatsumon, often briefly called Sanmon, is the main gate of Zojoji. Erected in 1624, it manage to avoid being burnt down in WWII.
Shoro is where a huge bell to tell time is hung.
Daiden is the main hall which enshrines Amida Nyorai. It was reconstructed in concrete after WWII since it was lost in the war.
Ankokuden, too, is dedicated to Amida Nyorai. This is also a new building.
Kyozo is where sutras are stored. This building was constructed in 1802 and has a thick wall to resist fire. Its door is usually closed, but its inside will sometimes be open to the public. Inside is a red octagonal shelf for sutras.
This hall enshrines Enko-daishi, another name of Honen, who is the sect founder of Jodo Buddhism.
Dai-Nokotsudo, or Shariden, is where the bones of the deceased are stored. It is made of stone and was created in 1933.
Shoguns' stone tombs
There used to be spectacular mausoleums of Tokugawa Shoguns like those in Nikko until WWII but were lost during the war. They were located to the north and south of Zojoji, but after the war, the stone tombs that remained were relocated with their masters' bones in the corner of Zojoji.
These gravestones are now open to the public for 500 yen.
Gates of mausoleums
As aforementioned, the mausoleums are now lost and hotels are erected there. But two gates of the mausoleums (and a gate which was constructed as the back gate of Zojoji) still stand in their original locations, since these gates were placed far from the central components of the mausoleums and were able to avoid being destroyed. Adding to these, three more gates also survived the war and were relocated to Saitama Prefecture.
Festivals & Ceremonies
Of the events annually held at this temple, relatively notable ones which outsiders can enjoy are Joya-no-kane & Hatsumoude in New Year, Setsubun Bean Throwing in February, Gyoki-daie Oneri Parade in April, and Jizo-son Bon-odori in mid-Summer.
Joya-no-kane & Hatsumoude
Joya-no-kane is an event widely conducted in Buddhist temples throughout Japan. Around the time a new year arrives, the large bell hung in the precincts gets rung, usually 108 times, often by ordinary people. Zojoji is a major temple in Tokyo so it's a major spot for this event also. In this temple, ordinary people can ring the bell but you have to make a reservation and pay 2,000 yen.
Hatsumoude, too, is a major ritual performed across Japan. When a new year arrives, people visit Shinto shrines or major Buddhist temples to offer their first prayers of the year. The first three days of January is often thought to be especially suitable for Hatsumoude.
Bean throwing on Setsubun Day (Feb 3) is also a very popular event in Japan. Many Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples carry out this ritual on their grounds, but the one held in Zojoji is relatively well-known.
Gyoki-daie is a ceremony held in April in memory of the death of sect founder Honen (1133-1212). It is held for several days but its main event for visitors is a procession consisting of 200 to 300 participants in traditional outfits. For details about this event, see the article on Gyoki-daie at Zojoji Temple.
In mid-April, there takes place a festival dedicated to more than 1,000 stone statuettes of Jizo with red caps. At this event, there will be a procession including mikoshi (portable shrine). See the article on Gyoki-daie at Zojoji Temple for details.
Bon-odori is a traditional dance enjoyed widely in Japan in summer.
For a few days from the end of July to the beginning of August, bon-odori dance festival is held in the evening every year.
4-7-35 Shibakoen, Minato-ku, Tokyo MAP
Access: 3-min walk from Toei Subway Mita Line Onarimon Station or Shiba-koen Station, 10-min walk from JR Hamamatsucho Station