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Posts tagged gokokuji

Ultimate 和

和 peace harmony balance japan gokokuji

和 = wa = peace, harmony, balance, and the like. There is nothing quite as peaceful, in harmony, and fulfilling of balance than death.


One of the oldest, if not the oldest, structure in Tokyo, Gokokuji was one of not many buildings that made it through World War II. Gokokuji was built more than 330 years ago.

If you happen to be in Tokyo in the near future, they have a flower festival at Gokokuji on the first or second Sunday of April.

A porch to hang out on

A cat is enjoying the shade of this temple porch in today’s photo.

Yakushido (the three larger characters on the sign, 薬師堂) literally means Hall of the Medicine Teacher. I believe this is in reference to the “Medicine Buddha” of Mahayana Buddhism.

This lovely building can be found in the complex of Gokokuji in Tokyo. Notice the paper stuck to the top of the posts on either side of the door. These are senjafuda (千社札) which I will deal with in more detail in a later entry.

The Buddha rests under the cherry blossoms

護国寺 大仏 桜 青空 東京 池袋

Three weeks ago Tokyo experienced one of only about two or three blue sky days of the month. It’s been a disappointing spring on the weather front so far with lots of rain, clouds, and some cold temperatures. But on that one nice day we took advantage of the good weather and rode our bikes from Nishi-Waseda to Yanaka via Gokokuji, pictured above.

Gokoku-ji 護国寺

Gokoku-ji 護国寺 stairs gate sunset tokyo japan

tokyo japan buddhism Gokokuji 護国寺 buddah

While riding a bus for the first time one day in an unknown area I passed the 護国寺 bus stop. The place looked huge and my bus stop wasn’t very far beyond the 護国寺 stop. So after I finished my business I walked back to this Buddhist temple. A funeral was underway. The person must have been very important as there was an unbelievable number of people in attendance. A line of more than a hundred people were waiting to get in while the inside already looked full of hundreds of people to me. Rather than have one or two places for people to check in, there looked to be more than a dozen.

Of course I didn’t take any pictures of the funeral or the people lining up, but the size of the event meant that many of the typical photos of this place wouldn’t work either as the grounds were covered in automobiles. The cemetery went on forever so I took quite a few pictures while strolling through it as the sun went down. It was one of those magical moments that can only happen when you are by yourself (which isn’t often in public in Tokyo). Other than myself there were only crows–lots of big black ones.

Not having done my homework beforehand, I had no idea how famous this place is, that it is Japan’s Imperial Mausoleum, that Emperor Meiji’s remains are here (I figured they were at Meiji Jingu), and that Gokokuji is the head temple for the Japanese tea ceremony.

I didn’t realize until I did research after taking these photos, but the third and last picture in this entry (with the crow on the torii) is of Okuma Shigenobu’s grave. Okuma Shigenobu was the founder of Waseda University and was a former, two-time Prime Minister of Japan. I actually gave a speech in the Okuma Auditorium, named in his honor, last week. Others who have given speeches in that exact same spot include Bill Gates, Albert Einstein, Bill Clinton, and Nelson Mandela. Maybe someday they will be as famous as I. 😉

Gokokuji is about a 30 minute walk from the Ikebukuro Station, or you can catch a bus in the Nishi Waseda area that will take you right there. There is also a Gokokuji Station on the Tokyo Metro.

Gokoku-ji 護国寺 japanese cemetery torii crow tokyo japan