This beautiful Buddhist temple is the heart of Shibamata. At the end of the main shopping street, the ornately carved Nitenmon Gate, built in 1896, welcomes visitors to the Shibamata Taishakuten temple grounds. The temple was established in 1629 and the current structure, built in 1929, managed to escape the WWII bombings. The main hall is covered in elaborate carvings, from the 12 animals of the Chinese horoscope around the entrance, to the life and teachings of Buddha at the back. Elevated wooden walkways connect the main hall to a guesthouse, lecture halls and an enclosed garden.
It’s definitely worth taking off your shoes and paying the 400 yen entrance fee to see the Buddhist carvings and tour the inner gardens. The carved wooden panels covering the naiden or inner sanctuary, depict aspects of Buddha’s life and teachings. The sense of detail and expressions on the faces are extraordinary. The carvings were completed between 1915 and 1929 by several artists, some of whom lived locally. Don’t miss the fierce dragons supporting the structure, on the lower level. The inner sanctuary and its carvings are climate-controlled and protected from the elements by glass, making it comfortable to visit in all seasons.
Cross a covered, elevated walkway and you’ll come to a beautiful garden, attached to the temple guesthouse. You can see traditional tatami rooms decorated with a mix of Japanese and Western art and furniture and enjoy hot or cold drinks before you enter the classical Japanese gardens. These are enclosed by a covered walkway, so that you can enjoy the scenery during all types of weather. From here you can return to the front of the temple, or take the back exit which leads to the Yamamoto-tei historic house and the Katsushika Shibamata Tora-san Museum.