The Zoshigaya Kishimojindo Hall in Toshima Ward enshrines Kishimojin, which has long been worshipped as a goddess of safe childbirth and child rearing.
There is a ginkgo tree in the precincts, which is also said to bring good luck for childbirth. Also, the local deity is Uka-no-mitama, who is said to bring good fortune for matters of commerce. It is popular as an energy spot within walking distance from Ikebukuro.
Festivals of different sizes are held throughout the year, and the normally quiet streets come to life during the three-day Oeshiki Festival in October.
Kishimojindo is a hall inside the precincts of Ikosan Homyoji, a Nichiren Buddhist temple.
The temple was originally founded in 810 as Ikoji, a temple of the Shingon sect, but in 1312, Nichigen Shonin, one of Nichiren Shonin’s disciples, is said to have converted to the Nichiren sect and renamed it Ikoji. It is an ancient temple with more than 700 years of history.
Kishimojindo Hall was said to have started when a man called Yamamura Tan’emon dug up a statue of the Kishimojin in the area around present-day Mejiro-dai and dedicated it to the temple called Toyobo, which was later merged with Homyoji.
The current hall is said to have been built in 1664, in the early Edo period, and was dismantled and restored in the late Showa period. It was designated as a Tangible Cultural Property by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government during Showa period and as a National Important Cultural Property in the Heisei period.
Kishimojin, also called Kariteimo, is an Indian deity. As a Yaksha (demon), it is said she gave birth to a thousand children. However, she was feared and hated by the people because she would take children from neighboring areas and eat them.
Buddha decided to save Kishimojin from her mistake, and hid her youngest child. Story says that by making her feel the sorrow of losing a child, he made her realize her mistake and repent.
Later, Kishimojin vowed to become the god of safe and peaceful childbirth, and thereafter she is deeply revered.
The statue of Kishimojin at Homyoji Temple is not in the form of a demon, but a beautiful bodhisattva wearing a hagoromo (celestial robe) and a yoraku (golden Buddhist necklace), holding an infant. In the name of Kishimojin, there is a letter 鬼, which means demon. But officially, when included in the name of Kishimojin, the letter 鬼 is written without the ‘horn’ on top.
Osen dango (sweet dumplings) are available at Daikokudo in the precincts of Kishimojindo on Sundays and on holy days (8th, 18th and 28th of every month). The name of this dumpling means thousand, named in honor of Kishimojin’s thousand children, with hopes that people who eat the dumplings will be blessed with many children.
Great Ginkgo Tree
The great ginkgo tree in the precincts of the temple is the sacred tree of Kishimojindo Hall. It is said to be about 700 years old, but even now it is healthy and strong. The tree is 32.5 meters tall, the trunk circumference is 6.63 meters, and its branches stretch about 10 meters in all directions. It is designated as a Natural Monument by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.
Since the Edo period, people have believed that by hugging this ginkgo, you will be blessed with children. So it is widely known and loved as the ‘Child-Giving Ginkgo’.
In the precincts of the temple is the Takeyoshi Inarido, with its eye-catching row of red torii gates. The main deity of the shrine is Uka-no-mitama, who is said to be the god of food, agriculture, industry, and commerce.
Before the Kishimojindo Hall was built, the land around this area was called ‘Forest of Inari’. Since then, this god has protected the area and is worshiped by the people around. In front of the shrine, statues of foxes sit on both sides, and the fox on the left has a scroll in its mouth. Together with the row of torii gates, it is a popular photo spot.
Hokushin Myoken Daibosatsu
At the back of the main hall, Hokushin Myoken Daibosatsu is enshrined, and is popularly known as ‘Myoken-san’. It is said to protect the land, take away various troubles and disasters, keep enemies away, and prolong life.