Holy Resurrection Cathedral – beautiful Tokyo architecture

Holy Resurrection Cathedral
The Holy Resurrection Cathedral.

The Holy Resurrection Cathedral is another Tokyo hidden gem. It hides in the backstreets near Ochanomizu Station. This Eastern Orthodox church offers a blend of spiritual solace and architectural splendor. It is a must-visit destination for anyone with a camera.

A brief history of the Holy Resurrection Cathedral

Locals refer to the building as “Nicolai-do” after its founder, St. Nicholas Kasatkin. Nicholas came to Japan in 1861 and was a priest at the Russian consulate in Hokkaido. Through him, the Eastern Orthodox Church entered the country. In 1870, he moved to Tokyo and worked hard to grow his congregation. It is still active today.

Nicholas commissioned Dr. Michael A. Shchurupov to plan the edifice. He also used my favorite English architect Josiah Conder to design it. They completed the building in 1891. It is the centerpiece of the Japanese Orthodox Church. In its early years, several misfortunes befell it, including a belfry collapse. The Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 caused some severe damage as well. Luckily, it still stands today.

The building is in the Byzantine style, which was different for Tokyo back in the day. In the early 20th century, you could even see the Imperial Palace from it. Now, tall buildings block that view.

Conder and Shchurupov probably received divine inspiration to create the Holy Resurrection Cathedral. It is beautiful. The detail in the stonework is incredible. We should consider ourselves lucky that it still stands.

Why do I like the cathedral?

  • It’s historic! The building and the people who made it influenced Tokyo. Conder’s influence is well known, but Kasatkin to a lesser degree. He gained much respect through his efforts in the Russo-Japanese War.
  • Some of the stained glass artwork is amazing.
  • I’m a fan of anything Josiah Conder made.
  • The building is beautiful. It is unique in Tokyo.

Tips for photographing the Holy Resurrection Cathedral

  • The courtyard area is cramped.  You’ll need a wide-angle lens to photograph it in its entirety.  Or, you could take several photos and stitch them together in post.
  • It’s no problem if you don’t have a wide-angle lens. You could use a longer one to photograph from over the road (check the map for positions).
  • Longer lenses are useful for zooming on building details.
  • Shadows will be problematic.  The church has tall buildings on two sides.  Plan your photo shoot accordingly for sunlight.

Where is the Holy Resurrection Church in Tokyo?

The church is only a short walk from Ochanomizu and Shin-Ochanomizu Stations. The building’s dome can be seen from many areas, so it should (hopefully) be easy to find! Click here to see it on Google Maps.


Official Address: 4 Chome-1-3 Kanda Surugadai, Chiyoda City, Tokyo 101-0062

Wrapping up

I don’t know the Holy Resurrection Cathedral well, so I was a little lost for these photos. How should I photograph it? As you can see from the pictures, the biggest problem is that tall buildings surround it. That puts at least two sides of it in shadow for most of the day.

In the end, I decided to photograph it around noon. That would give me good light. Well, I didn’t get anything epic, but they were good enough. Next time, I might try for something around golden hour. That might work well.

The problem though, is the front of the building. The gates close very early, around 4 o’clock. But, you can still do the domes from outside.

Once you finish at the cathedral, there is more near to photograph. Only a short walk away are:

If architecture and churches interest you, Holy Resurrection Cathedral is a great place! You can enter the building for a small fee, provided no religious services are scheduled. Unfortunately, photography is forbidden inside.

One last thing. St. Nicholas Kasatkin passed away in Tokyo. You can see his grave at Yanaka Cemetery.

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