Zojoji Temple: A photo guide

Zojoji and Tokyo Tower
Zojoji with Tokyo Tower on the right.

Zojoji is beautiful. The temple is close to the heart of Tokyo in more ways than one. It is in the middle of the city and has influenced the city’s cultural and religious life for many years. During the Edo period, it was a vast complex. What remains today is smaller in size but is still an important place. A visit there can give you a glimpse of what it might have been like in its heyday. It can also get you some great photographs!

Walking into the grounds through the Sangedatsu gate gives me a thrill. In front of you will be the main hall of Zojoji, with Tokyo Tower behind, towering over it. It is a picturesque scene. The two seem to be in a strange kind of partnership! It is difficult not to have the Tower in any photos taken from that area! I take a shot or two of the famous pair every time I go.

Daibonsho bell and cherry blossoms
Spring cherry blossoms around the Daibonsho bell.

By the way, Sangedatsu is one of the few original structures at Zojoji. It is huge and painted red. Passing through it is supposed to rid you of greed, hatred, and foolishness. I might have to walk through it a few more times, yet!

There is another gate, named Great Gate (or “Daimon”) in Japanese. It is about five hundred meters away from the entrance. Even though this one is a concrete reconstruction, it is popular for photos. Why? Because Tokyo Tower is visible in the background here too! It is a little special as further down the road is Daiichi-Keihin. Daiichi-Keihin is a road that follows the approximate route of the historical “Tokaido.”  That was the main highway between Kyoto and Edo.

jizo statues and cherry blossoms
Zojoji is home to many jizo statues.

On the grounds, under the main hall, is a gallery. It houses a beautiful 1/10 scale model of the Taitokuin mausoleum that once existed on the grounds. The mausoleum housed the remains of the Shogun Hidetada Tokugawa.  Unfortunately, the bombings of World War Two destroyed it in 1945. The miniature replica you’ll see is incredibly detailed. Some fantastic wall hangings surround it.

Zojoji Tokyo Tower Tanabata candles on smartphone screen
The candles of Tanabata.

The temple even has two unique trees. Ulysses S. Grant (the 18th American president) planted one, and George H. W. Bush did the other. Near the trees is a memorial to the people who lost their lives in the Hotel New Japan fire in 1982.

What can you photograph at Zojoji?

  • Cherry blossoms (2022 photos here)
  • Rows of jizo statues (guardians of children, travelers, and firefighters);
  • Temple architecture
  • Kumano Shrine with its famous crow
  • a huge bell (Daibonsho)
  • smaller halls
  • Tokyo Tower
  • Tokugawa graveyard. You can see the graves of six of Japan’s fifteen shoguns, along with some of their wives and concubines. The tombs are magnificent.

Notes on the Zojoji and Tokyo Tower view

The Zojoji-Tokyo Tower pairing is a classic Tokyo photograph. Thousands of people, including myself, have taken it many times. Unfortunately, a new building is now visible on the right side of the frame.

Some, including myself, consider the new structure a blemish on what was once a great photo. So what you can do, is try to hide it (to some extent). On the left side of the temple is a courtyard. If you take pictures there, the new building will be mostly hidden.

Sangedatsumon Gate at night
The Sangedatsumon Gate at night.

Other photo spots in the area

Events at the temple recommended for photographers

  • New Year’s Day (Hatsumode) – January 1
  • Setsubun (Bean Throwing Festival) – February 3 (2023 photos here)
  • Tanabata (the Star Festival) – July 7 (2022 photos here)
Daitokuin gate in middle and Tokyo Tower in background on right
The Daitokuin gate.

Zojoji Temple details

See the temple’s admission fees, opening hours, and location on the official website.

Wrapping up

For anyone wanting to photograph one of Tokyo’s most famous temples, Zojoji might be the place to go. It is big, beautiful and has many things to keep anyone with a camera happy. And you have Tokyo Tower in the background. While that view might not be what it once was, it still looks pretty good.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *