explore yanesen

Jyōmyōin temple – the more statues the better

The Yanesen area is littered with temples. If you have limited time, it is difficult to decide which ones are worth to include during your trip. Jyōmyōin temple (浄名院, sometimes also written as Jōmyōin), located in the Ueno Sakuragi area, just outside Yanaka (50 meters from Yanaka Cemetery), is worth passing by due to its 84000 Jizo statues (地蔵, guardian deities of children). In fact, there are only about 25000 Jizo at this temple, they are referred to as 84000 as this number represents a countless number in Buddhism. The statutes are inside sort of a stone rectangle frame and form multiple rows.

The temple was built in 1666 and was first the residence of one of the priests of the Kan’eiji temple nearby, before becoming a temple in its own right. It received its current name “Jyomyoin” in 1723 during the Kyoho era (1716-1735), during which also the gate of the temple was built.

Rows and rows of stone Jizo statues.

It became a place for the worship of these Jizo during the time of the 38th generation priest of the temple (a priest called Myoun) in 1876. He first set the goal to have 1000 of these stone Jizo. After he finished, the goal was reset to 84000. The great bronze image of Jizo that you can find at this temple was built in 1906 in memory of those who were killed during the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905).

Another, rather unrelated factoid of this temple is that there is a religious service held for Hechima Kuyo (sponge cucumber, a fruit native to Okinawa) that is said to miraculously cure respiratory diseases such as coughing and asthma. It used to be held on 15 August, but the date seems to change year by year. In the photo below you can see the announcement of the ceremony, to be held on 25 September (I took this photo of the entrance in 2007). Please note that it is not a major event that attracts tourists.

The entrance of the temple.

Jyomyoin has also been one of the locations for the 2010 movie Norwegian Wood (book by Haruki Murakami, film directed by Tran Anh Hung). You can see Toru (Ken’ichi Matsuyama) and Naoko (Rinko Kikuchi) walking between the Jizo on one their Sunday dates (early in the movie, at around 12 minutes).

Each time I visited this temple there was no one there, which actually makes the experience all the better. Some of the Jizo are extremely old, as are the tombstones. Being there alone, around dusk, having all the Jizo stare at you, is special to say the least.

In practice

2-6-4 Ueno Sakuragi, Taito-ku, Tokyo 110-0002

Closest station:
Uguisudani Station – 7 minutes walk (Yamanote line).
Nippori Station – 10 minutes walk (Yamanote line, Joban Line, Keihin-Tohoku Line, Keisei main line and Nippori-Toneri Liner).

Opening hours: 9:00-17:00

Entrance fee: free

Recommended time to spend here: 30 minutes

Web: http://www.tendaitokyo.jp/jiinmei/jyomyoin/ (in Japanese)

When to best visit? All year round

Why visit? Large quantity of stone Jizo statues (25000), unique in Tokyo.

Places to visit or things to do in the area? Right in the Yanesen area, very close to Ueno Sakuragi Atari, Yanaka Cemetery and Kayaba coffee.