Myohoji might be one of Tokyo’s lesser-known temples, but don’t let that discourage you from visiting it. True, it’s not as big as some, but it is attractive. And it has some fascinating history and a couple of little surprises. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.
The temple has wonderful architecture. Carvings of mythical creatures are on its ceilings. The Soshido (the building dedicated to the founder) has the classic sloping roof with bright red onigawara (demon-like creatures) above. It is beautiful.
Behind the Soshido is an area filled with trees, memorials and statues. Make sure to pack some insect repellent in summer, as there might be a lot of mosquitoes. I like it, as it is very peaceful. With its many trees, there is a lot of shade, making it a great place to sit, relax and think.
Myōhōji is also famous for its hydrangea garden near the cemetery at the rear of the complex. If you are ever in Tokyo in early summer, you should visit it. It even has an old gate with lanterns and the flowers lining its path. It’s not on the same level as Hakusan Shrine, but it is good.
If you go, make sure to poke around corners and look behind things. Because, if you do, there will be quite a few things waiting to surprise you. By doing that, I once found a pair of beautiful komainu (guardian dogs) in front of a small, hidden altar. That was a most pleasant discovery.
A brief history of Myohoji
- Myohoji is an early 17th-century temple. It was once in the Shingon Buddhist tradition but is now Nichiren.
- Legend says Shogun, Ietsuna Tokugawa, donated the main gate’s two guardian deities.
What is Myohoji’s English connection?
Do you know the mansions at Kyu-Furukawa Gardens and Kyu-Iwasaki Gardens? The English architect Josiah Conder designed them. Myohoji also has some of his work. He created the iron gate at the entrance. The amount of detail he got into the birds on it is incredible.
Photography at the temple
- There is nothing complicated about photographing Myohoji as it is very compact. Most of the interesting things are in the courtyard (e.g., Soshido, iron gate and main gate, etc.). So, I imagine you might spend some time there.
- Remember to look between buildings to see what you can (be mindful of the “Keep Out” signs, though). The other thing is that since the temple is very active. You will see many priests walking around, so please allow them their privacy.
- The temple also has a hydrangea garden behind it. It is pretty famous in Suginami ward. The festival for it is in June (2022 photos here).
When is the best time to go?
In early summer, when the hydrangeas bloom.
Where is Myohoji?
The Marunouchi subway line’s Shin-Koenji and Higashi-Koenji stations are near. From both of them, it is about a fifteen-minute walk. Here is a Google map:
The gates to the temple are usually open from 5 am to 5:30 pm.
Other photo spots near Myohoji
There is very little. But, about a ten-minute walk away is Omiya Hachimangu shrine.
Myohoji should be on your bucket list if you are a temple lover. The architecture is excellent, and it’s rarely crowded like the bigger temple of Sensoji. Plus, it has that English connection with Josiah Conder, which is fabulous. And don’t forget that hydrangea garden in summer! If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.