explore iriya

Snatching children and Morning-Glory flowers: Iriya Kishimojin

Iriya Kishimojin, also called Shingen-ji Temple, is famous for the Iriya Morning-Glory Festival held on and around its grounds early July. The temple was established in 1659, but not much is left from that age.

The temple grounds itself are very small and the main building is rather new. The main hall with intricate wood carvings and red colouring is beautiful to see, but does not leave a lasting impression. More interesting is the story behind the goddess that is worshiped here. Kishimojin is the goddess of children in Buddhism. She was apparently an evil goddess known for her atrocity, snatching children and eating them. According to the Buddhist legend, Gautama Buddha hid away the youngest son of Kishimojin to make her experience herself the sorrow of losing a child. As a result, her appetite for children came to an end and Kishimojin became a good goddess protecting children. Her sins for eating children were forgiven and she is now worshiped as a guardian of child-birth and child-growing. Iriya Kishimojin is one of 3 temples in and around Tokyo where Kishimojin is revered.

The Iriya Morning-Glory Festival at Kishimojin

The most important feature that puts this temple on the map is the nationally renown Iriya Morning-Glory Festival (Iriya Asagao Matsuri in Japanese), held each year from 6 to 8 July, right around the Tanabata festival on 7 July. Tanabata, also known as the Star Festival, is a Japanese festival that celebrates the meeting of the deities Orihime and Hikoboshi (represented by the stars Vega and Altair respectively). The festival at Iriya Kishimojin began in the Meiji period (1868-1912), was discontinued in 1913, but revived in 1948. It attracts 400.000 visitors during a three-day period.

At the right side of the temple grounds are a number of historic Ukiyo-e on the Morning-Glory Market

In practice

1-12-16 Shitaya, Taito-ku, Tokyo

Closest station:
Iriya Station – 3 minutes walk (Hibiya line)
Uguisudani Station – 5 minutes walk (Yamanote line, Keihintohoku line)

Opening hours: always open

Entrance: free

Web: http://www.asagao-maturi.com/ (official website of the Morning-Glory Festival in Japanese)

When to best visit? 6 to 8 July during the Morning-Glory Festival

Why visit? Largest market of morning glory flowers in Japan, continuing since the Meiji period.

Name in Japanese: 入谷鬼子母神(真源寺)