A day at Naritasan Shinshoji Temple, Narita

It was September 2017 and having signed off at Chiba, Japan after a rather dull tenure on board my ship, it was finally time to explore the quite popular Naritasan Shinshoji Temple at Narita, Japan. Although I have been in and out of Chiba, Tokyo, Kawasaki and Yokohama often in the past, due to the general lack of time could not do so.

Since this time I had about a day at my disposal, I decided to explore the Naritasan Shinshoji Temple.

The official name of Naritasan Temple is Naritasan Kongō-ō-in Shinshoji and it belongs to the Chisan Sect of Shingon Buddhism. The main deity of the temple which is the image of Fudō-myō-ō (“Unmovable wisdom king” or “Acalanatha” in Sanskrit) is said to have been carved by the founder of Shingon Buddhism, Kobo Daishi.

fudo-myo-o naritasan temple laid back traveller laidbacktraveller.com

The story goes that in 939, when the nation was thrown into upheaval by a revolt led by Taira no Masakado, Archbishop Kanjō carried this Fudō-myō-ō image, which had been enshrined at Takaosan Jingoji temple in Kyoto, to the Kanto area, on secret order of the Emperor Suzako. Here, at Narita, Kanjō conducted a goma rite in front of the image lasting 21 days, praying for the sake of peace. On February 14, 940, the final day of the goma prayer, the revolt was suppressed and Naritasan was founded to commemorate the victory.

The Naritasan Temple is famous for the goma ritual where many votive offerings ar e dedicated in front of the Fudō-myō-ō and special wooden goma sticks are burnt on the altar.

How to reach Naritasan Temple


Naritasan Shinshoji Temple is a 1.3 km (~ 20 min) pleasant walk from Narita station. Upon exiting the bustling square of Narita station, you gradually enter a quaint little street with various shops along both sides with various tourists and devotees walking towards the temple.

The walk from Narita Station to Naritasan Temple

Worship route


It takes about 1 hour if you follow the worship route:

Mani gate → Courtyard Goma Reception  → Niō-mon Gate → Great Main Hall → Shaka-dō Hall → Gaku-dō Hall → Komyōu-dō Hall → Great Pagoda of Peace → *(see note) → Shōtoku-taishi-dō Hall (Rooftop of Library) → Three-storied Pagoda → Daishi-dō Hall → Benzaiten-dō Hall → Main Gate

Note: If you want to add the Caligraphy museum and the Naritasan Park as well, it is a good two-hour course then. Naritasan Park is a must visit for nature lovers.

Various buildings in the Naritasan temple precinct


Sō-mon (Main Gate), (2007)


On the upper story of this main gate which is approx 15 m high, eight different Buddha images representing different birth years are enshrined for the protection of all people.

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Sō-mon (Main Gate)

Niō-mon Gate, (1831)


Enshrined here are the Four Guardians of the Buddha-Misshaku-kongo (Vajrapani) on the right and Naraen-kongo (Narayana) on the left in the front, and Komuku-ten (Virupaksa) and Tamon-ten (Vaisravana) in the back. Adjacent to the gate is Nio-ike pond where people can release live fish symbolizing the Buddhist teaching of “ahimsa” (nonviolence or the belief in the sacredness of all living creatures).

ni-o-mon gate naritasan temple laid back traveller laidbacktraveller.com

Niō-mon Gate

Great Main Hall, (1968)


The Goma ritual is performed in this hall in front of the Fudō-myō-ō image along with the four messengers. Only Shingon priests who have been instructed in the secret rituals can perform this rite. It is conducted from early morning everyday of the year.

Shaka-dō Hall (Sakyamuni Hall), (1858)


It was previously used as the main hall. Sakyamani Buddha along with four bodhisattvas are enshrined here. The reliefs of 500 Buddhist saints (arhat) and 24 paragons of Filial Piety are carved in the walls.

Gaku-dō Hall, (1861)


Displayed here are votive tablets and pictorial offering tablets dedicated by devotees. The Hall contains a large stone image of Ichikawa Danjuro VII (famous kabuki actor) and Giant Bronze Globe (constructed in 1907).

gaku-do-hall naritasan temple laid back traveller laidbacktraveller.com

Gaku-dō Hall

Komyo-do Hall, (1701)


Originally built as the main hall, this hall is a significant and colorful structure from the middle-Edo period. Enshrined here are Dainichinyorai Buddha in the center, Fudō-myō-ō on the right, and Aizen-myō-ō on the left side.

Great Pagoda of Peace, (1984)


This 58 m high pagoda symbolizes the teaching of Shingon Buddhism. This beautiful building contains historical exhibitions about Naritasan, statues of five Dharma-guardain kings and various Buddha statues.

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Great Pagoda of Peace

Naritasan park, (1928)


It is quite relaxing to walk around this Park. It was originally built in 1928 and re-designed in 1998. Spread over some 165,000 square meters, this natural beauty has a large pond, waterfall, and a fountain among the lush green foliage. Among this amazing back drop, are housed the Great Pagoda of Peace, the Calligraphy museum, the Hikkon-hi (monument in the memory of the writing brushes used in calligraphy), the Literature/Haiku monument, and a tea ceremony room.

Naritasan park

Three storied pagoda, (1712)


Five Buddhas (Vairocana, Aksobhya, Ratnasambhava, Amitabha, and Amoghasiddhi) are enshrined inside the pagoda and reliefs featuring 16 Buddhist saints (arhat) are carved on the inner wooden walls.

Three storied pagoda naritasan temple narita japan laid back traveller laidbacktraveller.com

Three storied pagoda

Issaikyō-dō (All scriptures house), (1722)


Approximately 2,000 volumes of Buddhist Scriptures are stored in this building, which also houses carved images of Pindola (the Buddha’s disciple who excelled in preaching) and Fu-da-shi (a devout Chinese Buddhist who invented the revolving bookcase).

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Issaikyō-dō (All scriptures house)

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Hope you enjoyed reading this blog post. Do let us know about your experience at Naritasan Temple, Japan or if I am missing something, please contact us or comment below and I will update this blog post soon. Your comments and/or feedback are most welcome.

 


 

About Manish Samtani

Namaste! A passionate traveller at heart and now a blogger as well. Thanks to my merchant navy career, travelling has always been an integral part of my professional life. Eternally fascinated by the World of Travelling be it either meeting new people, learning new cultures, experiencing their customs or just trying out some new cuisines. Off late, I’ve been exploring places with my family where my job has not taken me. Mail me at manishsamtani@laidbacktraveller.com

2 Comments

  1. Wow! The Naritasan Shinshoji Temple seems so charming and definitely worth exploring, Manish. Thanks for sharing your pictures and whetting my appetite to visit Narita soon!

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