Visit Jindaiji Temple for a Relaxing Day out in Suburban Tokyo
Jindaiji Temple is located in Chofu, a city in the suburbs of Tokyo around an hour’s tram and bus ride away from the metropolis. Built in 733 AD, the temple has a long history and still maintains its original appearance to this day. Standing among lush, tranquil greenery, it contrasts greatly with the hustle and bustle of the city. The strong Edo atmosphere is ideal for travelers who enjoy the serenity and a slow-paced trip, so plan a day to visit Jindaiji Temple for a fun stroll filled with coffee, soba (buckwheat noodles), Daruma dolls and GeGeGe no Kitaro!
Nov 28 2019 (Sep 09 2020)
A Peaceful Ancient Temple
Jindaiji Temple is the second oldest temple in Tokyo after Sensoji Temple, yet it is not as crowded and noisy due to its distance from the city center. This peacefulness away from the urban bustle is Jindaiji Temple’s greatest charm. More than a thousand years ago, the temple was already renowned as a place for farmers, merchants and samurais from all over the nation to visit and to pray for protection against misfortune or success in relationships. The Hakuho Buddha, the oldest Buddha statue in the Kanto region, is housed here. This national treasure is a bronze statue of Shakyamuni Buddha, also known as the Hakuho Buddha as it was sculpted in the 7th century during the Hakuho period.
Take the Keio Line from Shinjuku to Chofu city, then take the Keio bus "Cho 34" at the north exit and get off at Jindaiji Temple bus stop. In less than an hour, you will arrive at this slice of paradise in Tokyo.
One of the Three Major Daruma Doll Fairs in Japan
The annual Yakuyoke (Ward against Misfortune) Ganzan Daishi Festival of Jindaiji Temple is held annually on March 3rd - 4th. There will be a distinctive Daruma Doll Fair on these two days, which is considered to be among Japan's three greatest Daruma doll fairs. During this time, Jindaiji Temple will be bursting with color from the sea of Daruma dolls on display. Even though it was cloudy and rainy when we attended the last fair, the poor weather did not ruin the auspicious and lively atmosphere.
A variety of Daruma dolls with different colors and styles are sold at the fair. Find your favorite doll and ask the monk to help “open the left eye” by writing the Sanskrit letter “a” on it. This not only represents fresh beginnings and protection against misfortune, but also a wish which you can make. Once it is granted, come back and ask the monk to write the Sanskrit letter “hum” on the other eye as an expression of gratitude. This ritual of “opening” the Daruma doll’s eyes is only available during these two days each year exclusively at Jindaiji Temple. The Daruma doll can be an auspicious home decoration, while many stores put them on display as a lucky charm for business success. Generally, red is for protection, white is for passing exams, pink is for love, gold is for prosperity, purple is for longevity and yellow is for good fortune.
The soba at Jindaiji Temple is most famous, and is not to be missed. The reason why the soba here is so delicious is due to the excellent quality of the water, showing that Jindaiji
Temple has always been a place of green hills and clean water ever since ancient times. Take a short break after eating soba and stay for another Yakuyoke Ganzan Daishi Festival ritual at 2 pm - the Oneri Gyoretsu procession where the monks will march around the temple. Seeing the monks wearing gorgeous gold-brocaded seven-striped kasaya robes as beautiful and elegant as Heian-period emaki (illustrated scrolls) immediately brought the energetic atmosphere of the crowd to a feverish peak.
Don’t forget to collect all the limited honorable stamps at the Daruma Doll Fair! As this was the last Yakuyoke Ganzan Daishi Festival in the Heisei era, the limited honorable stamps at this Daruma Doll Fair seemed extra meaningful. For those that have the opportunity to travel to Tokyo during this period, the annual Yakuyoke Ganzan Daishi Festival, one of Japan’s three greatest Daruma Doll Fairs, would definitely make your trip more interesting.
Handmade Soba Restaurants & Cafes
The stroll around Jindaiji Temple in the rain was fascinating. Taking in the greenery of the suburbs washed away any hint of the clamor of the city, letting us forget that we were less than one hour away from the busy city. It was only when we left, with a long-overdue carefree mood and a grin on our faces, did we realize that we hadn’t felt so relaxed in a long time. The pathway back from Jindaiji Temple was lined with green trees and plum blossoms, and sprinkled between these were soba shops and cafes that offered respite from a day's worth of walking.
Ikkyuan: Onsen Tamago Soba
Ikkyuan is located right beside Jindaiji Temple, and you can observe how the handmade soba is made on site. Their onsen tamago (Japanese soft-boiled egg) soba is very special, and is limited to only 20 bowls daily. It is rare to see onsen tamagos added into tsuyu dipping sauces, but that is exactly what they want you to do here. Soba dipped in a runny egg is softer, as though inviting guests to slurp up all of the impressive tsuyu sauce. The texture of the handmade soba was also quite elastic, so they were extra chewy!
Manjuen: Traditional Japanese-style Cafe
After setting foot into this traditional Japanese-style house, we immediately fell in love with its simple and nostalgic ambiance. There are lots of handicraft items, woven products, cups and miscellaneous goods here. Walking further in, you will see a tea room full of sunshine and greenery, where we had a cup of coffee and red bean kusa mochi (Japanese sweet) soup. Being surrounded by gentle light and greenery felt very cozy, and oh how we wished that time would stop! A rare, therapeutic moment in a city that never seems to stop.
TOM&SAM: East Meets West
On the Edo-style streets surrounding Jindaiji Temple, there are also several Western-styled cafes, with one of them being TOM&SAM - a classic and elegant European-style cafe that serves delicious cakes, coffee and various types of black tea. Every piece of cake in the display cabinet is priced at a great bargain value that can’t be found in the city. We ordered two pots of English afternoon tea and a cup of royal milk tea, then picked our favorite cakes from the display cabinet. Places like this exist to satisfy everyone's sweet tooth, making it popular among locals and tourists. As expected, there was a non-stop flow of people coming in for cake takeaways or dining-in.
Kitaro Chaya: Buying Souvenirs
Shigeru Mizuki, the creator of the famous Japanese manga “GeGeGe no Kitaro”, moved to Chofu city in 1959 with his wife and spent the rest of his life here, so Jindaiji Temple can be said to be his second hometown. Kitaro Chaya has a tea room serving tea and desserts, a gallery showcasing Gegege no Kitaro ghosts, and an area selling merchandise of various Kitaro characters, attracting fans of GeGeGe no Kitaro from all over the globe. Gegege no Kitaro is still well-known after 50 years since its creation, and looking at the exhibitions here, one can’t help but be drawn into its unique world.
This trip to the suburbs of Tokyo has been very interesting, as we found things that downtown Tokyo just doesn’t offer. Speaking from experience, anyone who visits here would undoubtedly experience something that will last in the form of a fond memory. If you have the chance to come to Tokyo and want to experience a different type of Japanese leisure, do plan a day trip to Jindaiji Temple.
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.