Jindaiji, Tokyo’s Second Oldest Temple

Things to Know about the JIndaiji Temple of Chofu                                                                            

Brief Description of the JIndaiji Temple

The Jindaiji Temple is the second oldest temple in Tokyo as it was founded in the 7th century. The temple is not as popular as other tourist destinations in Japan. In fact, many travel writers describe it as a hidden gem to be discovered only by those who truly wonder. Located in the suburbs, there are not much tourist destinations around the area making it less popular than other parts of Tokyo.

Kaz Ish [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The religious significance of the Jindaiji temple is just like any other shrine or place of worship in Japan. They provide a space for prayer, reflection, and meditation. A quiet tour around the temple grounds would be enough to teach anyone about its history. This may also give a chance for the individual to reflect and get to know themselves a little bit more. It is said that couple who visit the temple will receive assistance and prosperity in marriage.

What makes the Jindaiji Temple even more special are the age-old shops around the temple grounds. There are stores for traditional sweets and snacks. There are also soba restaurants around the temple grounds. There are even pinwheel stores that will make the place look even more like Edo-period Japan.

Jindaiji Temple Location

The temple is located in the Chifu ward of Tokyo in Japan. It is located in the western area of Tokyo and is one of the best preserved historical sites in the metropolis. This particular temple is located to the south of the gigantic Jindai Botanical Gardens making it a part of the park’s main attractions. To the south of the Jindaiji temple is the famous Jindai-jo castle which is one of the most popular historical sites in Tokyo. Also to its south is the Ikenokami shrine. To its east would be the Shibasaki park and further south of the temple would be the Nunota park.

Important Structures in the Jindaiji Temple

  • Shakka-do – This particular hall, known as the Buddha hall, is the place that houses the temple’s main deity of worship. It may be a small building but it is home to many of the most popular Buddha statues in Japan. One of these would be the Hokuho Buddha which was sculpted in the 7th century and was declared a National Treasure in the early 1900s.
  • Ganzan Daishi Hall – The hall houses the deity of the Ryogen (or Ganzan Daishi) who is the “Great Master who passed away on the Third day of the New Year”. He was known as a warrior monk who formed an army to defend the temples and shrines of Kyoto in the 10th century.
  • Sanmon Gate – This is the main entrance to the temple grounds and it is where the souvenir shops, sweet stores, and soba restaurants are located. What is interesting about this particular gate is that it is completely well-preserved and it is one of the very few structures in Japan which date back to the Edo period with only minor rehabilitation.

History of the Jindaiji Temple in Chofu

It is well-known that the temple was founded in the 7th century. However, there is evidence to suggest that the construction of the temple was continuous. It was found that the youngest structure within the temple grounds dates back to the early 16th century. 

By 掬茶 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

Highlights of the Jindaiji Temple

Jindaiji Botanical Gardens

The Jindai Botanical Garden is located walking distance from the Jindaiji Temple and is considered as one of the hidden gems of Tokyo. Historically speaking, the botanical garden used to be a fortress in the early 15th century before it became a nursery that housed little trees to be lined in Tokyo’s streets. Who would have known that an urban location like Tokyo would have such large spaces dedicated to nature?

This particular garden is about 425,000 square meters big and there are about 30 small gardens inside featuring multiple varieties of plants and flowers. Among these would be the Rose garden, the Ume orchard, the Cherry trees, and more. There are different bodies of water inside the park like man-made ponds and lakes. There is even a lily pond and a large greenhouse inside. All in all, there are about 100,000 trees inside the park and more than a hundred species of flowering and non-flowering plants.

The park is usually open between 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM on a daily basis. Going to the Jindaiji Botanical Garden usually costs about 500 yen for adults and 200 yen for children. Usually, for maintenance purposes, the garden is closed on Mondays and national holidays.

JIndaiji Daruma Festival

One of the interesting celebrations in Tokyo would be the Daruma festival. Also known as the Daruma Doll Fair, it is a time of year when hundreds of stalls sell Daruma dolls outside the Jindaiji Temple. It is normally celebrated at the beginning of the year, in line with people setting “New Year Goals”. The Daruma doll is said to be an instrument for young people to learn about setting goals and achieving them.  

By nakashi from Chofu, Tokyo, JAPAN (Jindaiji temple) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

For those who don’t know, the Daruma doll is a traditional Japanese doll which was designed after the founder of Zen Buddhism. The dolls are usually small, round, and red. It is painted with a face and a beard. Generally, this particular doll is believed to be a magnet to good luck and perseverance. This is why it is often a gift given to shown encouragement. Usually, the dolls are sold with its eyes blank white. Then the user shall draw or paint one of the eyes after setting a goal. Once the goal is achieved, the other eye shall be drawn in.  

Jindaiji Pet Cemetery

It is not really a cliché anymore to provide resting places for pets. Other than the fact that it is much more sanitary to keep their bodies in one place, it provides closure for pet owners and pet lovers. Pets are, without a doubt, considered as a part of the family. This is why pet cemeteries may be a way for owners to heal and let go.

Although there are a number of pet cemeteries in Tokyo, the Jindaiji Pet Cemetery is considered as the largest. In this pet cemetery, there are shelves available for the display of the pet’s photo together with its ashes and some flowers. They have also dedicated an Ema to each pet, or Buddhist plaques which are used to express prayers for the reposed soul.

Jindaiji Food

Knowing that the JIndaiji is one of the oldest temples in Tokyo may be enough for someone’s quest for historical and cultural knowledge. However, it is those run-down, centuries-old shops outside the temple grounds that make the travelers feel as if they have traveled through time.

Many travel writers have exclaimed that visiting the Jindaiji Temple will not be complete without trying out the goodies outside of the temple grounds. The shops are very simple and modest. They do not only offer good food but they also give an “Old Tokyo” experience. Walking by the shops will definitely teach tourists about the culture of Edo-period Japan, particularly what the people then found yummy!

Jindaiji Street Food

Jindaiji Soba

There are roughly 20 soba stores surrounding the Jindaiji Temple. This is one of the “musts” when visiting Chofu in Tokyo. Soba noodles are served in different ways. It can be with a cold or hot broth with a variety of toppings and flavors. Some restaurants in the area have developed new ways of serving soba like through buns or burgers. Soba noodles are known to be good for the health as it is made from buckwheat. Because of its popularity and accessibility, soba is known to be one of Japan’s favorite snacks or comfort food.

Majority of the restaurants are Edo-styled which are old wooden shops that fit perfectly with the historical vibe of the temple. Many of these restaurants have been around the temple for centuries and have been passed on from generation to generation of family members. These are usually small and allow space for less than ten people but the restaurants are very homey, giving experiences likened to drinking broth on a cold day at home.

By nakashi from Chofu, Tokyo, JAPAN (Jindaiji temple) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Jindaiji Sembei

Also known as senbei, this is a traditional Japanese snack made from rice crackers. It is one of the best snacks to try outside of the Jindaiji Temple grounds. Usually, it is served as a refreshment where the savory, salty flavor f the rice cracker contrasts with the bitter-sweet taste of tea. Normally, it is grilled or baked over charcoal, adding a smoky charred flavor. To make it tasty, it is slathered with a mixture of soy sauce and mirin before it is topped (or wrapped) with nori.

Jindaiji Fugashi

Many people described this as “so horrible it is actually good” as it is a gluten snack made from dried wheat and brown sugar. This is a traditional candy or snack from the Edo-period Japan. It is quite affordable and popular among young children. This is surely a “must-eat” in Jindaiji because the stores outside of the temple use traditional means of making them.

Travel Tips to Jindaiji Temple

Access to Jindaiji Temple

There are different ways to get to the Jindaiji temple from various parts of Tokyo, even though it is located in the suburbs. People who wish to travel to Jindaiji has the option of taking the Chuo-Sobu line and getting off at the Chofu station. The temple is about a 15-minute walk from the station, the temple is roughly 2 kilometers north of the station.

Another way to get to the Jindaiji temple is to take the Keio Line from the Shinjuku station and getting off at the Chofu Station. From here, the temple is about 15 minutes away. Travel time from Shinjuku to Chofu station is about 30 to 40 minutes. For those taking the JR Chuo line, they can get off at the Kichijoji in Mitaka which is about 15 minutes away from Shinjuku.

There is also an option of taking the bus going to the Jindaiji. For those taking a bus from the Chofu Station, they can take the Cho 34 to get off at the Jindaiji bus stop. They can also take the Kichi 14 and get off at the Jindaiji Shogakkomae which is a 5-minute walk from the temple. Taka 56 bus also passes by the Jindaiji temple, just get off at the Jindaiji-iriguchi bus stop which is about eight minutes away from the temple.

Opening time and Entrance Fees

What is special about the Jindaiji, compared to other temples, is that it is open year round. There are no closing days, even during national holidays and entry to the temple is free of charge. This is because of the fact that they know that these are the times when the number of tourists is at a maximum. On the other hand, the temple is only open between 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM on a daily basis. There are times of the year, for special events, that the temple closes later than usual. These are usually held during spring time and autumn. These are usually the time when illuminations are displayed to highlight the cherry blossoms or the autumn foliage.

Accommodation near Jindaiji Temple

There are a number of hotels around Chofu from which the Jindaiji Temple is accessible. One of this would be the Kichijoji Daiichi Hotel, the Chofu Creston Hotel, and the Hotel Continental. All these are three-star accommodations located at the center of Chofu city which offers both comfort and affordability. A short visit to Chofu will be made worthwhile by staying in one of these hotels.

JIndaiji Onsen - Although it is a suburban location in Tokyo, there are still hotels in Chofu that offer hot spring baths or onsens. These may not necessarily be authentic hot spring water but it still provides an experience travelers would not forget. A short visit to the Jindaiji onsen would be a good idea after a full day of touring or playing sports. It is a relaxing way to end a weekend of adventure.