Home » A photographer’s guide to Ikegami-Honmonji Temple

A photographer’s guide to Ikegami-Honmonji Temple

Ikegami-Honmonji Temple is the main temple of the Nichiren sect of Buddhism.  To be honest, I’ve only visited it twice.  I don’t know much about it, but so far, I’ve been very impressed.   Plus, it has a fantastic graveyard, that I’ve only scratched its surface.  This place is historic and beautiful.  There is so much to see and many photographs are waiting to be made there.

Ikegami Honmonji main hall
The main hall of Ikegami-Honmonji.

A brief history of Ikegami-Honmonji

  • Nichiren recuperated there from an illness in 1282, on his way from Minobusan to Hitachi.  It was his final journey as he died on October 13.
  • In the Kamakura and Muromachi periods, Kanto samurai patronized Ikegami-Honmonji.   In the Azuchi–Momoyama and Edo periods, men such as Kiyomasa Kato and Toshiie Maeda often visited it.
  • Takamori Saigo and Kaishu Katsu met there during the Meiji Restoration. They discussed the surrender of Edo to Imperial Forces.
  • WW2 Air raids destroyed many of the historic buildings.  But the pagoda, main gate, sutra storehouse escaped destruction.
Ikegami Honmonji five-story pagoda
The famous Ikegami-Honmonji pagoda.
plum blossoms at Ikegami-Honmonji
Plum blossoms in the temple’s cemetery.

Three tips for photography:

  • The temple should be an excellent spot for cherry blossoms.  I haven’t seen them in bloom, but I have seen the trees (pre-season).   They are also featured in some YouTube videos.  Spring should be incredible. 
  • Ikegami-Honmonji seems to get very few foreign tourists (this mightn’t be important for some people).  
  • Many Japanese go there on weekends to pray.  So, if you want to the grounds as empty as possible, weekdays should be better.
wooden baku nightmare eater on pagoda
Baku, a dream-eater under one of the roofs of the pagoda.

What is at Ikegami-Honmonji for photographers?

Main hall

WW2 air raids destroyed the original building.  This reconstruction has a stunning altar.  On the ceiling is a fading ceiling mural of a dragon.  


Flowers 

The temple is famous for plum and cherry blossoms.

Main gate

This gate dates from the Genroku era (late 17th century to early 18th century).

Five-story pagoda

 The second Shogun, Hidetada Tokugawa, built the pagoda in 1607. It is also the oldest of its type in the Kanto area and now a National Important Cultural Property.

Tahoto

This is a red pagoda where Nichiren was cremated.  It is the only structure of its type remaining in Japan.

Main entrance staircase

The main entrance’s staircase has ninety-six stone steps inspired by the Lotus Sutra.  It is said Kiyomasa Kato donated it.

Cemetery

Honmonji’s cemetery is the resting place of many historical people.  It also has plum blossoms.

Ikegami Honmonji grave
Grave in the cemetery.

Where is Ikegami-Honmonji?

A visit to Ikegami Honmon-Ji might be a little troublesome for some.  If you are leaving from Shinjuku or Shibuya, you’ll need to make some train transfers and walk.  

The closest train stations are:

  1. Nishi-gome on the Toei-Asakusa Line.
  1. Ikegami on the Ikegami Line.

From both stations, it is about a ten-minute walk.  Here is a Google map:

Opening hours

Open all year round

The grounds and cemetery are open twenty-four hours a day.

Ikegami Honmonji main staircase
Ikegami-Honmonji’s famous staircase.

Are public toilets available?

Yes

Is public WIFI available?

Yes

Niomon gate guardian deity
One of the guardians in the Niomon Gate.

Admission costs

None

Other photo spots near Ikegami-Honmonji

Wrapping up

I’m excited about Ikegami-Honmonji, even though I’ve only visited it briefly twice.  From my short experience, it is a stunning temple.  Some of the original architecture is still there, and it is impressive.  

onigawara on Ikegami Honmonji roof
Onigawara on the temple roof.

And don’t forget the flowers.  There are plum blossoms, but cherry blossoms seem to be the focus.  When they bloom, the temple should be very special.

temple buckets

Please come back again in a few weeks.  As long as the weather for the 2022 cherry blossom is good, I’ll have new pictures here.  So please consider this guide as a work in progress.  There is much there I need to discover.  You can see the Ikegami-Honmonji (Japanese) website here. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.

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