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Updated: April 2, 2018
This striking building in the Tsukiji area of Tokyo—most famous for its enormous fish market—is a far cry from any other Buddhist temple you may find in Japan. Its architecture is a curious amalgam of influences, though the elaborate stone facade most noticeably evokes the shapes and motifs of traditional Indian structures. For this, the Japanese government has designated the temple an important cultural property.
The thoroughly modern appearance of Tsukiji Hongan-ji defies its long history as a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist temple founded in the early 17th century. The original, a wooden structure more akin to traditional Japanese temples, was not here but in the Asakusa area. After two of Tokyo's most devastating fires razed it to the ground, a visionary University of Tokyo architect undertook the task of its reconstruction in the 1930s.
Take the time to admire the impressive exterior of lotus motifs, minarets and columns, which take inspiration from South East Asian, European and Islamic cultures. The multicultural spirit of the temple today extends beyond its architecture, engaging with foreign visitors and religious leaders from other faiths.
Step into the main hall and, in addition to the figure of Amitabha, you will find two elements traditionally associated with Christian churches: a stained glass window with lotus motifs, and also a pipe organ, acquired from Germany during the Soviet era.
After taking in the beauty of this unique site, you may like to stop for refreshments at the on-site café. If you are in the area for the fish market in the very early hours of the morning, you may be able to sit in on the first prayers of the day. The temple also publishes the schedule for its free monthly lunchtime concerts on its website.
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