garden, architecture, art

Shibamata Taishakuten

Shibamata Taishakuten is a temple with almost 400 years of history. It is located in Shibamata, in Katsushika-ku, an area featured in the movie series Otoko wa Tsurai yo (It’s Tough Being a Man). It is a popular spot which is mentioned by the main character of the movie, Tora-san, in which he “was first bathed at Taishakuten,” and also appears in various literary works, including novels by Natsume Soseki.

Along with Shibamata Taishakuten, the approach to the temple is a must-see. It starts at the nearest train station, Shibamata, and goes all the way to the temple. Be sure to take a stroll and enjoy the relaxed, warm, atmosphere of the old downtown area.

The Approach to Taishakuten with Its Old Downtown Atmosphere

The nearest station to Shibamata Taishakuten is Shibamata Station on the Keisei Kanamachi Line. Although it is a small station, it is crowded with many people on weekends. The statue of ‘Tora-san’ in the plaza in front of the station is one of the best photo spots.

If you head on to the left side facing the statue, there is a green roofed arch and a stone-paved path. This is the entrance to the ‘Taishakuten Approach’. The approach, lined with wooden buildings on both sides, has a nostalgic retro atmosphere. It is lined with a variety of stores, including long-established Japanese sweets shops and souvenir shops. If you are hungry, it’s nice to eat around and enjoy dumplings and rice crackers before heading to Shibamata Taishakuten. You can buy souvenirs on your way back from the

Nitenmon Gate

As you stroll along the path, the first thing you will see is the Nitenmon Gate.

Nitenmon Gate was built in 1896 by Master Sakata Tomekichi[1], who is considered to be the last master builder of Edo architecture. It is made entirely of Japanese zelkova wood, which is hard and resistant to decay. With its stately elegance and artistic beauty, it is one of the most outstanding buildings in Shibamata Taishakuten.

Taishakuten, an Indian Deity

After passing through the Nitenmon Gate, you will enter the precincts of Shibamata Taishakuten.

The history of Shibamata Taishakuten dates back to 1629, during the Edo period. The official name is Kyoeizan Daikyoji Temple and it was founded by two monks, Reverend Zen-nai-in Nitchu and his disciple Reverend Daikyo-in Nichi-ei.

Usually, Taishakuten refers to the Indian god called Indra, one of the guardian deities of Buddhism, but at Shibamata Taishakuten, it is used as the temple’s nickname.

Sacred Water / Bodhisattva Jogyo

After passing through the Nitenmon Gate, you will see the Taishakudo Hall in front of you, but first you need to purify your body, speech, and mind with the sacred water on your left. This is the sacred water that ‘Tora-san’ was supposed to be have been bathed in right after his birth.

Behind the sacred water, there is also the Bodhisattva Jogyo, who is said to purify the world and wash away people’s sins. Put your palms together in a short prayer, before proceeding to the Taishakudo Hall.

Taishakudo Hall

The principal image of Taishakuten, which was carved by Nichiren Shonin himself, once went missing, but was rediscovered by Kotei-in Nikkyo in 1779 and enshrined in Taishakudo.

Since the day the principal image was rediscovered fell on the day of ‘Koshin’ (Metal Monkey Day of the Chinese zodiac calendar), on the day of ‘Koshin’, which occurs every 60 days, there is a festival and the Taishakuten Ita-honzon (Wooden Main Deity) is opened to public.

The Zuiryu-No-Matsu

On the left hand side of the Taishakudo is a pine tree several hundred years old, spreading its magnificent branches in three directions. It is called ‘Zuiryu-no-matsu’, meaning ‘Dragon pine tree’,for it looks like a dragon ascending to heaven.

Every year, they hold a ceremony called ‘Matsu no Goshuage’ , in which sake is poured into the base of the pine tree.

Sculpture Gallery

There are so many splendid wood carvings in the temple that Shibamata Taishakuten is also known as the ‘Temple of Sculptures’.

The sculptures around the Taishakudo Hall are especially magnificent. The sculptures are covered with glass for preservation and are open to the public as the ‘Sculpture Gallery’.

The ‘Sculpture of Lotus Sutra Stories’ is a selection of ten of the most famous Buddhist stories from the Lotus Sutra, sculpted by master craftsmen of the early Showa period. The intricate and powerful sculptures are well worth a visit.

The shadows change depending on the time of day, such as day, evening or early morning. Although the entrance to this is area is charged, I recommend you to visit several times and enjoy the different expressions they make.

Auther:Hiroko Hirachi

Writer for website, magazine, and newspaper. Used to be a newspaperman. Also active as a yoga teacher, teaching at temple.