Located in Nippori, Tennoji Temple is a very peaceful small secluded temple, no doubt in part because it is located inYanaka cemetery, which by the way has many lovely trees, lots of which are cherry trees that when are in full bloom encourage scores of people to view them & in traditional Japanese fashion sit under them and relax while getting intoxicated on the atmosphere and of course alcohol although it is much more tranquil than in other more boisterous cherry blossom viewing locations.
The temple grounds are very beautifully manicured by the monks who used to look after the graves which just happen to be the resting place of some well known people, in particular artists & writers the most famous of which are Soseki Natsume (1867-1916) and Ogai Mori (1862-1922), both novelists of the Meiji Era. Natsume, whose portrait is on the 1,000-yen note, is most famous for the story “I am a Cat” Ogai, at age 19 was the youngest graduate from the Tokyo University medical school who later became surgeon general, & was additionally a leading figure of modern Japanese literature.
The most stunning thing about this temple is that just inside the temple grounds there is a large bronze Buddha which adds to the serene ambience. Also there is a standing bronze Jizo, the guardian of children’s spirits. It was erected by a broken-hearted father, after the death of his son in a playground accident. At the bottom on its base boys are shown playing in school uniform. It was pointed out to me that there too is a little stone statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy.
A further appealing titbit about this temple is that it was for a long time, during the Edo Period, one of only three places where lottery tickets could be purchased so it was all the rage for that- if for no other reason.
The temple dates back to Japanese Kamakura Period (1185 to 1333) although the Buddha was cast in 1690 In its heyday the temple’s compound was apparently ten times larger than it is now.
Today Tennoji & Yanaka cemetery are great places to get away from the huslle & bustle of city life.
Smith’s School of English Koenji
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