Fukagawa Fudō-dō is a bit of a mishmash temple, not very beautiful, even though the wood carvings on the main building are rather nice. It is difficult to swallow the large LED display at the front of the temple advertising the times of the goma fire ritual though. On top of that you have the hyper-modern building on the left of the temple with Sanskrit black, white and gold letters that give the temple an unnatural appearance. To make matters worse, a large part of the grounds are pure concrete and a large part of it is coloured green with very smooth surface like an indoor soccer field. The highway passing by in the background does not help either.
Fukagawa Fudō-dō was established in 1703 as branch temple of Narita-san Shinshō-ji temple. This temple is part of the Chisan group in the Shingon school of Buddhism (one of the major schools of Buddhism in Japan) and practices Esoteric Buddhism. The wooden temple building that you see in front dates from 1862 and was brought here in 1950 after the temple was destroyed during World War II. This wooden building is the former main hall, the current main hall is the modern building on the left (completed in 2011). The building behind the wooden temple building (called the inner building) is from 2000.
Somehow, all the hodgepodge at this temple fits with the god that is worshipped here. Fudōmyō-ō is the god of justice, who fends of evil with his sword and menacing look. He is usually shown with flames on the background and it is thought that he continuously needs to replenish his power with the energy of fire. Hence, at this temple we have the goma fire rituals at which wooden sticks are burnt during a ceremony several times a day in order to give Fudōmyō-ō the fighting force he needs. The sign on the counter where you can buy these wooden sticks (called gomagi) says it all: “These gomagi sticks are the food of the Fudō god”. This ceremony is held with powerful and loud drumbeats and relentless resonant incantations. This is the show why you should come to this temple! Everyday at 9:00, 11:00, 13:00, 15:00 and 17:00. Every month on the 1st, 15th and 28th there is also a ceremony at 19:00. To view the ceremony, enter the wooden building on the left side (take of your shoes and put them in a plastic bag). After you entered the building it is immediately on the left hand side.
Wood carvings in the eaves on the former main hall
The other reason why you should come are the hallucinatory rooms inside of the temple, you have several floors (with elevator!) in the inner building behind the wooden temple building (all accessible through the same entrance as for the ceremony), and here you can visit several dedicated rooms and niches that give a truly dreamlike audiovisual experience. Please note photography is forbidden inside.
You can visit inside in particular:
- Main temple building (the new building on the left): Prayer gallery with 10.000 small crystal gorintō (five-ringed tower, a Japanese type of Buddhist pagoda).
- Old wooden temple building: the Onegai-Fudōson statue, made from 500 year old camphorwood from Kumamoto prefecture.
- 1st floor (inner building): seated Fudōmyō-ō statue, made by the famous sculptor Sawada Sekō.
- 2nd floor (inner building): experience the Shikoku O-henro, the famous pilgrimage around 88 temples in one room, special lighting and sounds included.
- 4th floor (inner building): ceiling painting of Dainichi Buddha by Nakajima Chinami.
If you want to immerse yourself completely, you can also do a sutra writing training (called shakyō) for JPY 2000 (each day available 9:00-14:00 at the registration desk). For this training you write the faintly pre-printed Chinese characters, and while doing so you will clear your head. Please note that you will need Chinese character writing skills. If not, you can draw the picture of Fudōmyō (called shabutsu) in the same manner as the characters for the same amount of money.
The temple in all its beauty: LED display, ultra modern building on the left, highway on the back. Of course, it would not be complete without large signs to tell you where everything is and what is coming up.
1-17-13 Tomioka, Koto-ku, Tokyo
Monzen-Nakacho Station – 2 minutes walk (Tozai line, Toei Oedo Line)
8:00–18:00 (on the 1st, 15th and 28th until 20:00)
The second and fourth floor are only open until 16:00 (on the 1st, 15th and 28th until 18:00)
Entrance fee: free
When to best visit?
The goma fire ritual is every day at 9:00, 11:00, 13:00, 15:00 and 17:00. Every month on the 1st, 15th and 28th there is also a ceremony at 19:00.
To view the ceremony, enter the wooden building on the left side (take of your shoes and put them in a plastic bag). After you entered the building it is immediately on the left hand side.
Why visit? the goma fire ritual is a loud and powerful free show
Web: http://fukagawafudou.gr.jp/ (in Japanese)
Name in Japanese: 成田山 東京別院 深川不動堂