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A golden goddess at Zenshoan Temple

One afternoon, I walked from Rikugien to Yanaka Cemetery.  Halfway there, I looked to my left and saw a temple.  A glint of gold caught my eye.  I looked more carefully and took another step.  In front of me was a massive statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy.  It was looking out over the cemetery and the temple.  I had found a real golden goddess!

Golden Goddess Kannon statue at Zenshoan Temple

The temple’s name was Zenshoan.  I didn’t know it.  It was the first time I had been there.  Later, I discovered Yamaoka Tesshu, a famous samurai of the Edo period, founded it.  His grave is at the rear of the temple, in the cemetery.  Near him is another celebrity of the time, Sanyutei Encho, a famous rakugo artist.

Zenshoan temple and cherry blossoms

Zenshoan’s cemetery isn’t big.  It is probably smaller than the one of Gokokuji temple. But it’s a very nicely kept place. The gardeners there always seem to be busy.

A few famous people rest there.  Most of them are from the Edo period. Some of them mightn’t be very famous overseas, but they include:

  • Hirota Ryutaro – composer
  • Sanyutei Encho – rakugoka
  • Yamaoka Tesshu – a samurai who played an important role in the Meiji Restoration
Zenshoan golden goddess statue

But the golden goddess is the reason to go.  It is of the Kannon, the goddess of mercy.  She is about six meters high and sits on a pedestal above the ground.  You can’t miss it.  I found photographing it a little tricky.  With my 16-55 mm lens, I found myself close to the base, looking up at it.  That wasn’t satisfactory, as it was hard to catch details.

Yamaoka Tesshu grave at Zenshoan temple
Yamaoka Tesshu grave at Zenshoan temple.

In the end, I settled for my 55-200 mm.  With that, I went to the far side of the cemetery and took photographs.  The perspective was much better.  I was happy.  Some clouds would have improved things considerably, though.  That might happen on my next visit. 

golden goddess Kannon statue

Where is the golden goddess?

The goddess is at Zenshoan Temple in Taito Ward.  Closest station:  Sendagi (Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line).  Walk from station:  roughly a six-minutes.  

Here is a map:  

Wrapping up

At the time of my visit, I had no idea that the temple was also famous for its collection of yurei (ghost) paintings.  They are put on public display each August.  I’ve noted that in my smartphone’s diary, so I will go there in 2022.

Goddess Kannon

If you are into Buddhism and want to see a golden goddess, put Zenshoan on your bucket list.  It’s not too far from Yanaka Cemetery and Yanaka Ginza.  You could visit all three in one day. 

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