The One about Kagurazaka and Bishamonten Zenkoku-ji Temple

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With two hours to spare before I met a few friends in Shinjuku, I decided to travel to the neighborhood of Kagurazaka, near Iidabashi Station.

Kagurazaka’s history goes as far back to the middle of the 16th century as the Ogo clan of Mt. Akagi (in the Gunma prefecture) moved to Kagurazaka to build the Ushigome Castle (where Koshoji Temple is currently located).  The Akagi shrine was transferred from Mt. Akagi do the location and when the first shogun, Tokuagawa Ieyasu moved to Edo (Tokyo) in 1590, the Ushigome Castle was demolished.

When Sakai Tadakatsu built his residence in Kagurazaka, many samurai would live near Kagurazaka street, which is now the commercial hub known as Kagurazaka-dori street.

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As my first time in the Kagurazaka area, the first thing I know is how the area is slightly on a slope but there are restaurants, shops and cafe’s near the station.

As everyone is going through the main road, as I did research of the area, learned that the main road of Kagurazaka was once the outer edge of Edo Castle.  Back in the early 20th century, the area was known for its numerous geisha houses (which the area still has today).  In fact, Kagurazaka is one of the Six Hanamichi (Geisha Districts) in Tokyo.

The area also has a pretty good population of French expatriates, thus the number of French eateries, bakeries and cheese shops in the area.

The location is also famous for its old and famous “ryotei” (which takes a bit of a walk to get to) but it’s where you will find quality/expensive “kaiseki” cuisine.

With not much time to spare, I headed out to the main road to visit the Bishamonten Zenkoku-ji Temple.

The temple was built back in 1595 by the first shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu.  In 1792, it was relocated from Chiyoda-ku to it’s current area, along with nine stores before the gates and became the center of the town that eventually became Kagurazaka.  During this time, during the Meiji period, samurai residences were demolished in order to make the area a commercial district.

Bishamonten, originally a Hindu god, was absorbed into Buddhism and evolved into a deity known to grant people’s wishes.  He is one of the Four Heavenly Kings and the protector of the north.  In Japan, Bishamonten is also one of the Seven Gods of Fortune.

Like many temples in Japan, the temple was rebuilt and restored as the original temple was destroyed during the air raids of World War II. But where other temples took decades to build, Zenkoku-ji was rebuilt six years after being destroyed.

The other shrine in the area is the Akagi-jinja shrine, but unfortunately, due to time, I was unable to visit the location.  But possibly in my next trip to Japan.