Gokokuji Temple

A splendid Edo Period temple

By Sleiman Azizi    - 2 min read

Having survived both the earthquakes and air raids that had previously levelled the city of Tokyo, Gokokuji Temple's existence is a minor miracle. Established in 1681 by the fifth Tokugawa shogun, Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, Gokokuji is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, surviving Buddhist temple in Tokyo.

Dedicated to Shingon Buddhism, centuries of worship and reflection have created a beautifully kept compound of temples, shrines and monuments. With a rich and long standing history, Gokokuji represents a real boon from the Edo Period - a close look at the architecture of the Kannon Do main temple reveals weathered signs of its maturity. The temple is now considered an Important Cultural Property of Tokyo.

Stone lanterns amidst the open temple grounds
Stone lanterns amidst the open temple grounds

The temple grounds are home to many other structures including the Shoro Do belfry tower, the Yakushi Do dedicated to the Buddhist deity of healing, Yakushi Nyorai, and Daishi Do where the founder of Shingon Buddhism, Kobo Daishi, is enshrined. Along with these structures, visitors will find Shinto shrines, period style gates, a cemetery containng the graves of famous people like former prime ministers and the tea ceremony master Matsudaira Fumai, religious statues, stone lanterns and painstakingly cared for gardens.

Detailed statues
Detailed statues

Interestingly, Gokokuji has also become a hub for the tea ceremony with nine tea houses located on site. Designed by the architect Ogi Rodo, the structures add a unique level of cultural depth to the temple grounds, merging religion and culture in a way that is typical of Japan's undefinable aesthetic attractiveness.

Unlike some of Tokyo's more famous temples and shrines, Gokokuji and its treasures are an almost unknown quantity for many. With so much history, culture and architectural appeal, however, it is hard to imagine Gokokuji being overlooked for much longer.

Getting there

Take the Yurakucho Subway Line and get off at Gokokuji Station. The temple entrance is easily located outside of Exit 1.

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Sleiman Azizi

Sleiman Azizi @sleiman.azizi

A Japanese Permanent Resident, I drool over proper soba and sushi while Japanese aesthetics ticks all the right boxes for me.With over 100 published articles on Japan as well as 5 English language books written in a traditional Japanese style, I also happen enjoy writing. Funny that...I'm also the Regional Partner for Tokyo, Japan's never ending capital, so if you've anything to say about Tokyo - or Japan in general - don't be shy and contact with me via sleiman.azizi@japantravel.com

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Elizabeth Scally 4 months ago
A real survivor considering all the disasters and fires that have befallen Tokyo in the last three hundred years.

What a place to experience tea!
Sleiman Azizi Author 4 months ago
It's a really nice place. Lots of space and, well, pleasant.
Kim B 4 months ago
I literally stayed in Otsuka two weeks ago! Bummed that I missed this since it's in the area!
Sleiman Azizi Author 4 months ago
Thanks for the kind words. It's a nice place. Would like to have spent more time but kids, you know lol