Tokyo Diaries – Gokokuji

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Cats everywhere.

Just another lazy day of wandering about Shitamachi.  This time it’s Gokokuji, which of all Tokyo’s most important temples is the closest to me.  I took the 25-minute walk up there today and snapped some more pics (along with a few at a small but picturesque temple I stumbled upon along the way) as a service was taking place inside.  When the weather is like this – about 10 degrees Celsius with no rain – it feels like you could walk and walk all day.  Winters in Tokyo can occasionally get nasty, but most of the time they’re rather pleasant really.

Gokokuji is notable for being one of the relatively few major Edo temples to survive WW II unscathed, as well as being the temple in charge of tea ceremony for all Buddhist temples in Japan.  It was founded by the fifth Shogun Tsunayoshi (the “Dog Shogun” was was eventually murdered by his wife) in honor of his mother.  Most of the building – including the Hondo – were built in the 17th Century and survive today, though there is one Momoyama period hall built around 1600 that was moved to Gokokuji, the Gekkoden.  It’s a really lovely place – one of the prettiest temple complexes in Tokyo.

Gokokuji is also notable (to me) for being, like so many temples and shrines, filled with cats.  I really think there’s something deep in this connection between these places and the cat – an appreciation for all creatures, for one, and also some kind of admiration for the cat’s seeming ability to achieve complete relaxation and inner calm.

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14 comments

  1. l

    I like Gokukuji too. It's a quiet, calm, peaceful temple complex. It's very likely because the temple is often used for funeral ceremonies as it's part of / surrounded by a cemetery XD The first Meiji emperor is buried there too.

    Main gate
    The spring at the bottom of the stairway to the temple
    The walk up to the main temple complex
    Main temple

  2. It also seems to be almost completely off the tourist track, which is odd in that it's one of the largest original temples from the early Edo Period in Tokyo, and one of the most beautiful.

  3. l

    It's definitely not part of the tourist track. I wouldn't have visited Gokukuji if not for the fact that I planned to visit Ikebukuro and Jiyu Gakuen Myonichikan (one of two buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright left fully standing in Japan) and needed some other places to visit around the area. The night before in the hotel, I decided to wander around the suburb around Ikebukuro and thought Gokukuji would be an interesting focal point. That was it. I thought I would only be at the temple for about an hour at best and ended up spending nearly 2 hours there because of the serenity and simple beauty. Later, I went to the Ikebukuro Seibu food hall to buy a variety of cooked food for lunch XD

  4. l

    Oh.. I will be in Kyoto and Osaka in March 2014 in the week of the Kyoto Higashiyama Hanatouro. Some of the major temples there will be lit up and open to the public. Also while it is early for cherry blossoms but should be just nice for the plum blossoms at Kitano Tenmangu shrine.

    Fully mapped out my itinerary but willing to hear suggestions for Kyoto (4 days) and Osaka (3 days).

  5. I was actually in Kyoto for that festival in 2009. Quite a lovely addition to Higashiyama evenings.

    I can hardly begin to suggest itineraries for Kyoto, if you were there a year it wouldn't be enough. What have you seen already? The stuff I love that isn't in most of the tour guides is Ishiyama-dera, in Otsu – most beautiful temple I've seen. If you like Chihayafuru I'd think Omi-jingu would be a must. Next time I'm down there I certainly plan to check out the Kyousougiga sights, most of which are in Takao.

    As for Osaka, the time I've spent there has been in the evenings. I know it has some traditional tourist attractions but I've never really done any of them – I like the city for its restaurants and electricity at night. Den Den Town is an interesting alternative to Akihabara, and Nanba is probably the most interesting nightlife neighborhood. I'd also consider Kobe, which has a very nice waterfront, and Arima Onsen just about the city is a nice stop for a day-use onsen visit.

  6. l

    I think it would be easier for me to list out the places in my itinerary:

    Kyoto
    Day 1: AM: Transfer from Kansai airport to Kyoto
    Day 1: PM: Toji temple, Umekoji Park, Nishi Hoganji temple, Higashi Hoganji temple, Shoseien Garden
    Day 2: AM: Kitano Tenmangu shrine, Hirano shrine, Kinkakuji temple, Ryoani temple, Ninnaji temple, Myoshinji temple
    Day 2: PM: Seiryoji temple, Gioji temple, Jojakkoji temple, Nonomiya shrine, Tenryuji temple, Togetsukyo bridge
    Day 3: AM: Fushimi Inari, Tofukyuji temple, Sennyuji temple
    Day 3: AM/PM: Higashiyama area from Kiyomizu Dera upwards to Shoren-in temple
    Day 3: Evening (For Hanatouro): Shoren-in temple and back down to Kiyomizu Dera
    Day 4: AM: Shimogamo shrine, Kyoto imperial palace (pending successful application), Nijo Castle
    Day 4: PM: Transfer from Kyoto to Osaka

    Osaka
    Day 4: PM: Shinsaibashi (evening)
    Day 5: AM: Osaka Castle, Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum
    Day 5: PM: Minoo Park, Umeda area (PM to Evening)
    Day 6: AM: Shintennoji temple & antique/flea market, Shinsekai
    Day 6: PM: Nipponbashi, Shinsaibashi, Dotonbori
    Day 7: AM: Transfer to Kansai airport

    Depending on time, may change or drop a few places.

  7. Well, I can't specifically take issue with anything you've got there. I might try to spend a little of my Kyoto time farther off the tourist trail, like Ishiyamadera, or see one of the mountain villages like Kurama/Kibune or Takao (where much of Kyousougiga is set). You might feel a little templed out by the end of Kyoto, too – pretty heavy on them, but they're all good ones. I would skip the Imperial Palace and try and get in at one of the Imperial Villas.

    As for Osaka, I'd try to ha e some evening time in Namba and Den Den Town, and see if I could at least give Kobe a couple of hours. Spring Koshien might be going on at Koshien Stadium.

  8. l

    Hmm.. will consider either one of Ishiyamadera, Kurama/Kibune or Takao for variety. Need to rethink itinerary as how best to fit it and what to drop. Those places are 1 hour away from where I'll be staying in Kyoto. Must work it into a session that is close to one of the session areas of interest, e.g. Arashimaya then Takao or vice versa.

    As for Osaka, the Namba area covers Shinsekai, Nipponbashi and all the way up to Shinsaibashi – all done within Day 6. Thought of Spring Koshien but don't have the time to cover it.

  9. F

    Having lots of cats is a good thing! ^^

  10. t

    oh great pics Enzo.
    we can really see how Tokyo is special. I mean, on the one hand some sort of megalopolis with building, yet shrines and nature are hidden within it. like this picture
    http://lh6.ggpht.com/-TSAVUO2yprE/UsjdHaqEeJI/AAAAAAAECug/4N6ZwfAIrUo/s1600-h/IMG_0159%25255B3%25255D.jpg

    LOL that picture with the cat lying there. giving me vibes from anime scenes where you can see cats enjoying themselves. mostly I remember Rin's cats XD

  11. H

    http://lh3.ggpht.com/-ipysDI36SpQ/UsjdH11DAiI/AAAAAAAECuk/foj2gwUVPvM/IMG_0159_thumb.jpg?imgmax=800 Think that's one of the prettiest pictures you've had in all of your Tokyo Diaries posts, lovely framing of the scene! (both with the gate and then with the architecture in the background, it's an interestingly balanced picture)

  12. Thanks – I do like temple gates as framing devices, though I'm not enough of a photographer to think of it in terms like balance and such… Working with a new camera lately too, thanks to credit card points.

  13. l

    If you don't mind me asking, could I keep a copy of these just for reference? It's hard to find reference of japan sometimes especially when I don't live there 😀

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