The Kishimojin-do (The Kishimojin Hall) in Zoshigaya in Toshima-ku, Tokyo, is a detached sub-temple of Homyo-ji Nichiren-sect Temple. It might be a place any mother in the world would want to visit. Its principle image is Kishimojin, whose Sanskrit name is Hariti, and she has been worshipped especially as a goddess of pregnancy, safe delivery and happy child rearing.
In Indian mythology, she used to be a demon who abducted and murdered many children, but, chastised by the Buddha, she reformed herself and vowed to protect all children.
The main building of Kishimojin-do was constructed in 1664 using funds donated by the lawful wife of the Lord of the Hiroshima Domain, and it is said that is why some characteristics of the architectural style in Aki region (the old name of Hiroshima) can be seen in the main building. The building, with some beautiful carvings, is in itself a valuable one which survived the bombardments during the Second World War.
As I walked with my friend along the path lined with keyaki (zelkova) trees, some of which are said to be 400 years old, toward the main building on a hot summar day, we visited a small tourist information center, where we met an amiable woman at the counter.
I asked her if many international travelers visited there.
“Well, there are many Chinese tourists,” she replied.
“Do you get many Westerners, too?”
“No. It seems that about the half of the tourists are Chinese.”
“You mean about the half of foreign tourists are Chinese?”
“No, I mean about the half of all tourists seems to be Chinese. Just now, we had a few pass through. I have just met a group of four adults and three children.”
“Why so many Chinese? Are they better informed?”
“I don’t know…”
And after a little while, she said cheerfully and proudly, “Anyway I hope you will enjoy the Kishimojin-do. It has almost been decided that it will soon be designated as an Important Cultural Property!” (See Update 1 at the end of this post.)
A little later in the precinct of the temple, an elderly shop clerk of a mom and pop candy store also told us about the honorable title about to be given by the nation. And it seemed to me that both of their remarks, along with their uplifting tones, represent the general feeling of the neighborhood residents toward the Kishimojin-do.
There is also a small Inari shrine in the compound. Enshrined there is the deity called Ukanomitama-no-mikoto, who has been worshipped in this region long before the Kishimojin-do was established there.
When we visited the Kishimojin-do, they were making preparations for a Bon festival dance that would be held that night.
The Kishimojin-do is a place loved by the locals. This area still retains some aspects of the “good old days,” when people were friendly and kind, and spoke noisily. So, if you are a bit overwhelmed by the skyscrapers in the Tokyo Metropolitan area, I hope you will relax for a while in a place like this.
How to Get There
The Kishimojin-do is only a short walk either from Kishibojinmae Station on the Toden Arakawa Line (See Update 2 at the end of this post.) or Zoshigaya Station on the Tokyo Metro Fukutoshin Line. It is even within walking distance from Ikebukuro Station of JR Yamanote Line (about 15 minutes on foot).
Suggestions for a Tour
If you want to visit other places nearby, some interesting places are within walking distance of Kishimojin-do. Zoshigaya Cemetery has the area of 10 hectares, and it was founded in 1874. It is commonly known for the fact that it has the graves of many famous people, including Natsume Soseki, Nagai Kafu, Izumi Kyoka, Nakahama Manjiro and Lafcadio Hearn. The map of the compound showing the locations of each grave is available at the office.
The Old Missionary House is a Western-style wooden house. It was once a property of an American missionary. Now it is managed by Toshima Ward and open to the public as a museum.
Riding a passenger car of the Toden Arakawa Line (the Tokyo Sakura Tram) is in itself one of the highlights of the trip. It is the only streetcar line left in Tokyo, running 12 km from Waseda to Minowa. If you board it, you can realize how essential it is as a means of transportation for the local people.
Other than the above stops, there are many interesting destinations along the Toden Arakawa Line (the Tokyo Sakura Tram). If you are interested in a guided tour around here, please send an e-mail though the Rates/Contact page of this site.
Photographs: taken at Kishimojin-do, and other places along the Toden Arakawa Line,
by Koji Ikuma, with Fuji X-T1 & P. Angenieux Paris 15mm f1.3.
Update 1 (March 2019): Koshimojin-do was designated as a National Important Cultural Property in 2018.
Update 2 (August 2020): In 2017, a new name for Toden Arakawa Line was sought from the public and eventually, the “Tokyo Sakura Tram” was adopted. However, it didn’t exclude the old name, and now both names are used.