posted on August 1, 2015

When you have a couple of hours before checking in for your flight at Narita International Airport, why not venture a short trip to Naritasan Shinsho-ji Temple? Naritasan Shinsho-ji Temple is a temple of a Shingon sect of Buddhism located in Narita, Chiba. It’s easy access from Narita International Airport. Naritasan Shinsho-ji temple is one of the three most popular temples for the first temple visit of the new year. More than 10 million people visit this temple every year.

Main Hall

Great Main Hall

 

This temple was founded in mid-10th century after the honorable Buddhist monk, Kancho, successfully pacified the rebellion by Tairano Masakado, a powerful warrior leader ruling today’s Kanto area. It is said that Kancho devoted himself to praying to Fudo Myo-o for the help in order to suppress the rebellion while performing “Goma” ritual. “Goma” is one of the Buddhist rituals mainly performed in Shingon Buddhism and Tendai Bhddhism, which are categorized as Mikkyo, Esoteric Buddhism. Fudo Myo-o is one of the Japanese Buddhist gods. In the great main hall of this shrine, the statue of Fudo Myo-o is enshrined. This is the principle image of this shrine and it is said that this statue was carved by Kukai, the founder of Shingon sect of Buddhism, and was prayed to by Kancho when the rebellion was subdued.

 

Stone Carving

Stone Carving

Entering the main gate, you’ll walk on the stone path lined with stone lanterns and stone carvings of imaginary lion-like creatures.

The lion-like creatures are called “Shishi,” which are thought to be auspicious in Japan.

In the new year, “Shishi-mai” or Shishi dances are performed traditionally all around Japan to celebrate the new year.

 

 

 

Nio-mon Gate

Niomon Gate

This path leads to steep stone stairs which bring you to the main hall of this temple.

Around the middle of the stairs, stands Niomon Gate or Deva King Gate, which was rebuilt about 200 years ago. . Two deva kings on both sides of the gate protect this temple.

In the center, a large red lantern is hung. The kanji and hiragana characters are written on the lantern. They read “Uo-gashi,” which means a fish market.

People working in fish markets worshiped this temple and donated this large lantern in the Edo period. It weighs about 800 kg, about 1,700 pounds.

 

Nio Pond

Nio Pond

Behind Niomon Gate, there’s Nio Pond with a stone arched bridge connecting the both sides of the pond. Probably, you’ll see frogs swimming in an easygoing manner.

This pond symbolizes a place to release every captured living thing and treasure the life of all creatures.

On the slope area around the pond, stand a lot of stone monuments with kanji characters carved on them. These kanji characters show the amount of money and what the money was paid for.

Mostly, the money was donation to this temple in return for the memorial services the temple hold for the donors.

 

 

Three-Story Pagoda

Three-Story Pagoda

After managing to walk up the steep stairs to the top ( If you have trouble taking the stairs, two elevators are available), you’ll see the Great Main Hall beyond the incense burner.

This hall is a very large hall, and houses Fudo Myo-o which is said to have been engraved by Kuai. Visitors are free to enter this hall, so why not go in and see inside. If you are lucky, you may have a glimpse of a monk performing a Goma ritual, which even Japanese rarely have a chance to see.

In front of Great Main Hall, stands the Three-story Pagoda. This 25-meter pagoda was built about 300 years ago and is designated as an important cultural property of Japan.

 

What this pagoda impresses you is the brightly colored cloud-and-water patterns depicted on the backside of each roof. They are flowingly drawn in vivid vermilion, yellow, blue, and green. The carvings of golden dragons on the roof rafters also catch eyes, and it looks as if the dragons were flying through the clouds. Inside the pagoda, five statues of Buddha are enshrined.

 

In the precinct of Naritasan Shinsho-ji Temple, there are other building worth-visiting: Shakado Hall, Gakudo Hall, Komyodo Hall. Shado Hall(Japan’s important cultural property) used to be the main hall of this temple; now a statue of Shaka Nyorai and four statues of Kannon Bodhisattva are enshrined inside. Komyodo Hall(Japan’s important cultural property) is one of the valuable remains of the Edo period; a statue of Dainichi Nyorai and two statues of Myo-o are enshrined.

Gakudo Hall

Gakudo Hall

In Gakudo Hall(Japan’s important cultural property), plaques and picture tablets dedicated by this temple’s believers are hung. They are different in size and shape, and it’s a very unique place rarely found in the places in Japan. There is also a stone statue of Ichikawa Danjuro Ⅶ, a famous Kabuki actor about 200 years ago.

The relation between this temple and the Ichikawa family started when Ichikawa Danjuro 1st had a baby after praying to Fudo Myo-o in this temple. He wrote and performed a new kabuki play featuring Fudo Myo-o to show his gratitude. This play earned a huge success, which brought him and the Ichikawa family great fame. They performed Fudo Myo-o’s anger by using special acting techniques called “Mie” and “Nirami.”

“Mie” is a kabuki actor’s motionless performance keeping the facial expression and body posture unchanged for a while at the height of his performances. “Nirami” is a glare when performing “Mie.” Especially, the Ichikawa family’s “Mie” has been highly acclaimed in the technique, and has been said to be expressing the spirit of Fodo Myo-o. People said, “If you are glared at with that “Mie,” you’ll get rid of your disease or bad luck.”

Ichikawa family’s stage family name(Yago) is Narita-ya. This comes from the fact that the Ichikawa family has had a lot to do with Naritasan Shinsho-jo Temple. In a Kabuki theater, the audience cheer their favorite actors and praise the performances, shouting out the stage names like, “Narita-ya.”

 

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Pond and carps

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pond and Colored Leaves

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One more place I’d recommend you to visit in Naritasan Shinsho-ji Temple is its extensive garden, Naritasan Garden. This 165,000-square-meter(41-acre) park boasts beautiful seasonal flowers including Japanese apricots, cherry blossoms, wisterias, and chrysanthemums. Colored leaves in autumn are also eye-pleasing. There are three ponds where carps swimming in a leisurely manner, and a scenic waterfall.

 

If you take the JR Line or the Keisei Line, please enjoy Japanese food or shopping at shops lined along the front approach from Narita Station to Naritasan Shinsho-ji Temple. This area is famous for “Unagi(eels)” dishes. They are grilled in a traditional way of cooking and served with special barbecue sauce on them. Many eel restaurants are there, and you may have a chance to see “Unagi” chefs precooking eels by cutting them in their distinctive way.

Shops along Temple's front approach

Shops along Temple’s front approach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eel Restaurant

Eel Restaurant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Naritasan Shinsho-ji Temple website: click here.

Naritasan Shinsho-ji Temple is about 10-minute walk from Narita Station on the JR Line and the Keisei Line. It’s about 8 minutes from the Terminal 2 of Narita Airport to Narita Station by express or limited-express on the JR Line and the Keisei Line.

 

 

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