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Name: San'en-zan Kodo in Zojoji
Denomination: Jodo shu (Pure Land Sect) of Buddhism, founded by Honen
Shonin Main Image (Hohzon): Amida Buddha, the Nembutsu prayer Namu Amida Butsu is recited.
Founder: Yuyo Shoso shonin, the 8th patriarch of Jodo shu.
Temple Status: Main temple (Headquaters: Dai-Honzon)


Zojoji was founded in 1393 as an orthodox and fundamental nembutsu seminary for Jodo shu in the Kanto (east Japan) region.

Zojoji was relocated to the present site in 1598 after Ieyasu Tokugawa, founder of the Tokugawa shogunate, entered Edo (present-day Tokyo) in 1590 to establish his provincial government. After the start of the Edo Period when the Tokugawa shogunate ruled Japan, Zojoji became the family temple of the Tokugawa family and an unparalleled grand cathedral was built. Zojoji also served as an administrative center to govern the religious studies and activities of Jodo shu. In those days, its precincts covered an area of 826,000 square meters which also contained 48 smaller attached temples and about 150 grammar schools. Moreover, as many as 3,000 priests and novices always resided here as students.

Nevertheless, as the Tokugawa shogunate came to an end and the Meiji Era started, an anti-Buddhist movement got under way. The cathedral, temples and the mausoleum of the Tokugawa family were burned down by air raids during World War II. Thus, Zojoji was profoundly affected by political and social circumstances.
Today, however, its cathedral and other structures have been rebuilt, and Zojoji continues to serve as the main temple of Jodo shu and the central nembutsu seminary for priests and novices. Furthermore, it has endeared itself to the general public as both a grand Buddhist temple typical of the metropolis Tokyo and a hub of religious and cultural activities.


Sangedatsumon (Main Gate)

As the front face of Zojoji, this gate strikes passersby as majestic and magnificent. This wooden gate, measuring 21 meters in height, 28.7 meters in width and 17.6 meters in depth, was built in 1622, and today remains the only architectural reminder of the early days of the Edo Period when the original Zojoji was constructed on a prodigious scale. The gate has been designated by the State as important cultural property. Its name - Sangedatsumon - means a gate (mon) for getting delivered (gedatsu) from three (san) earthly states of mind - greed, anger and stupidity.

The vermilion-lacquered gate is a two-story structure. Enshrined in the upper story are image of Shakyamuni Buddha, Samantabhadra and Manjusri bodhisattvas, and the sixteen arhat disciples of the Buddha, which were created by Buddhist image sculptors of Kyoto when Zojoji was built.

Daibonsho (Big Bell)

This bell was completed in 1673 after repeating casting work as many as seven times. This giant bell, boasting a diameter of 1.76 meters, a height of 3.33 meters and a weight of 15 tons, is renowned as one of the Big Three Bells of the Edo Period.

The bell is tolled twice a day - six times each in the early morning and in the evening. It not only chimes the hours, but also serves to purify one hundred and eight earthly passions (bonno), which lead people astray, through an exhortation, repeated six times a day, to profound equanimity.

Kyozo (Sutra godown) / Daizokyo (Principal texts of the Buddhist canon)

Kyozo was built in 1613 with the financial aid of Ieyasu Tokugawa and drastically remodeled and relocated in 1800. This Japanese- storehouse has octagonal-shaped revolving bookshelves at its center. It has been designated as cultural property by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

Formerly stored in this godown was Sandaizokyo (tripitake), the three principal collections of the Buddhist canon (daizokyo)- So-ban and Gen-ban (printed in China during the Sung and Yuan eras, respectively, and Korai-ban, printed in Korea) - which were donated by Ieyasu Tokugawa. They have been designated by the State as important cultural property. (Nowadays, they are kept in a storehouse, situated behind Kyozo.)

Daiden (Hondo: Main Hall)

Daiden (Hondo), which forms the core of the Buddhist structures of Zojoji, was rebuilt in 1974 by combining the traditional Buddhist temple architecture with a cream of modern architecture. Enshrined in this hall is a large main image (honzon) of Amida Buddha (made during the Muromachi Period), with an image of Great Teacher Shan-tao (who perfected China's Jodo (Pure Land) Buddhism) at its right and an image of Honen Shonin (who founded Japan's Jodo Shu) at its left. These images are deeply revered by many people who worship at Zojoji. Daiden has been reconstructed according to an innovative architectural design that enables it to serve not only as a fundamental nembutsu seminary of the headquarters of Jodo shu, but also as a site for all manner of religious rites and memorial services.


Koshoden has been completed as a lecture hall and seminary for “cleansing soul and fostering the vigor to live” with the advent of the 21st century.

The coffered ceiling of its large hall features pictures of flowering plants, donated by 120 pious Japanese artists and fitted into coffers. This gorgeous display of ceiling pictures is bound to be appreciated as an artistic heritage for the 21st century, helping to fill the hearts of people gathering in the hall with unfathomable piety and bliss.


Enshrined in this building is the Black Image of Amida Buddha, which was deeply worshiped by Ieyasu Tokugawa.

This wonder-working image is said to have repeatedly saved Ieyasu from dangers and enabled him to win battles. Since the Edo Period, it has been widely revered as a Buddhist image which brings victory and wards off evils.

Mausoleum of Tokugawa Shoguns

After Ieyasu Tokugawa started to rule the Kanto (east Japan) region, he accorded cordial protection to Zojoji as the family temple of the Tokugawa family. Parallel to the expansion of the Edo Castle, a large-scale construction project was also commenced for Zojoji. After that, Zojoji came to be widely known as one of Japan's principal Buddhist temples. Located in its precincts are the tombs of six Tokugawa Shoguns, Imperial Princess Kazunomiya (wife of Shogun Iemochi), and wives and children of shoguns. Nowadays, these tombs serve as a reminder of the prosperous Edo Period.


Buddhism and Development of Jodo shu

Jodo shu preaches Senju Nembutsu (the single-minded recitation of the Nembutsu). That is, by reciting the Nembutsu prayer Namu-Amida-Butsu, all people can be equally accorded salvation thanks to Amida Buddha's benevolence that is meted out to all people without discrimination, enabling them to be reborn in Gokuraku-jodo (Pure Land of Bliss) after their death.

Jodo shu

Jodo shu was founded by Honen Shonin (1133~1212) in 1175, based on Jodo-kyo, which had been developed by Great Teacher Shan-tao. The purpose was to propagate Buddhism, until then restricted mainly to the State and the nobility, in order to bring equal salvation to all people.

Jodo shu preaches Senju Nembutsu (the single-minded recitation of the Nembutsu). That is, by reciting the Nembutsu prayer Namu-Amida-Butsu, all people can be equally accorded salvation thanks to Amida Buddha's benevolence that is meted out to all people without discrimination, enabling them to be reborn in Gokuraku-jodo (Pure Land of Bliss) after their death.


Designated by the state
Sandaizokyo (tripitake)
Honen Shonin Eden (Illustrated Biography of Honen Shonin)
Hanazono-tennno Shinkan-shinki Mokuroku-jo
Designated by the Tokyo Metropolitan Govemment
Honzon Amida Nyoraizo (Main Image of Amida Buddha)
Kurohonzon Amida Nyoraizo (Black Image of Amida Buddha)
Shaka Sanzonzo (Three Images of Shakyamuni Buddha)
Shitennozo (Image of the Four Devas), kyozo, etc.
Designated by Minato Ward
Gohyaku Rakanzu (One Hundred Hanging Scrolls of the Five Hundred Enlightened Ones (arhats))
Honen Shonin Gyozo Ezu (Illustrated Doing of Honen Shonin)
Kuromon (Black Gate), Kaya-no-ki (Tree of kaya (Japanese plum-yew))
Nehanzu (Picture of Shakyamuni Buddha's Demise), etc.


Zojoji Temple

Jodo Shu Main Temple
4-7-35 Shibakoen Minato-ku, Tokyo 105-0011 Japan
Tel: (81)3-3432-1431

Sightseeing spots around Zojoji-temple Sightseeing spots around Zojoji-temple