Zōjō-ji temple | Japan

When I was putting together my post explaining the reason behind my current trip to Japan, I came across some writing about Zōjō-ji temple in Tokyo (link in original post). As it turns out, this is one of the main temples in Tokyo offering mizuko ceremonies, along with the possibility for families to purchase a mizuko Jizō statue to commemorate their child.

Since I had never been there, I wanted to make sure that I would stop by Zōjō-ji on this trip.

I arrived at the temple at 7 AM, but the temple buildings did not open until 9 AM. This gave me time to eat breakfast, and to watch commuters stop by for a quick prayer before work.

breakfast of champions

{A breakfast of champions: salmon ongiri (rice ball) and a banana.}

It also allowed me to tour the grounds with hardly anyone around. This was a really good thing, because I found it difficult to contain my emotions when I entered the area dedicated to these mizuko Jizō memorial statues. Now, I think it is important to mention for those who do not know that in Asia, there is this concept of “losing face”, and that this is something you do not want to do. Not only does it make you look bad, it makes other people around you uncomfortable. Crying is something that makes you lose face (so would be yelling, or anything that shows a great amount of emotions), so you shouldn’t do it in public. So when I got a bit teary eyed, it was good that no one else was around.

I wasn’t expecting there to be so many statues, all with their caps and bibs and toys. I wasn’t expecting there to be such a vast sea of dead babies. I mean, how can anyone not be sad witnessing such a greatness of loss? Yes, cemeteries in general are sad, but usually people buried there had lived their lives – at least some of it. This was just a large gathering of denied possibilities, a large void.

Some of the statues were new, some were old. Some were well tended, some were neglected. There must have been hundreds… There was also a shrine to pray to, with a Jizō inside and toy offerings in the front. In spite of being so darn sad and depressing, it was also beautiful and peaceful. And they did somewhat cheer things up with all of those pinwheels!

front and back of a mizuko memorial
memorial statues recent and old
mizuko jizo shrine and wishes
mizuko offerings

While there were numerous memorials for the children who never were, the focus here wasn’t on the Jizō deity himself. This site was more of a graveyard, rather than a place to pray. In that respect, this temple did not compete with those I will be visiting in Nagano. Still, it set the tone for my trip, and started the healing process.

Once the temple opened it’s doors, I went in for a prayer and meditation. I did shed a few tears, all the while trying to totally not look like I was crying. Once I was ready I went through the gift shop (you can always buy amulets and charms and souvenirs at temples), and bought a little “self-rightning” Jizō statue (their wording, not mine) to add to my home altar. I also got my first go-shuin of this trip, which will make a nice little memorial for my pilgrimage. (This post has an image explaining the different sections of the go-shuin). Here it is bellow!


I walked around the temple a bit more afterwards, and so here are photos from other areas of the grounds. One thing that makes this temple pretty special is that it stands before Tokyo Tower, a famous Tokyo landmark. Can you believe that of all of my trips to Japan, I had never actually seen it? Apparently this temple makes for a great shooting location at night when the tower is all lit up.

zojo-ji temple and tokyo tower


About Magalie

Canadian girl living in Texas, off to see the world when she can!
This entry was posted in Asia, Japan, Post with photo and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Zōjō-ji temple | Japan

  1. Stunning photos of Zozoji temple! Your photos make me want to go there. 🙂


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