Tsukiji Hongwanji

A Jodo Shinshu Buddhist temple
(Shin Buddhism)

Located only minutes away from the Ginza in central Tokyo,
the Tsukiji Hongwanji has served as an oasis for centuries.


UPDATED: April 2012.
    The Tsukiji Hongwanji Betsuin was re-classified within the Hongwanji Temple System.
     The temple is no longer a Betsuin, or Branch Temple, of the Mother Temple, but now a direct temple in Tokyo of the Hongwanji.
     This became effective, 1 April 2012.


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Welcome to Tsukiji Hongwanji Buddhist Temple

The Tsukiji Hongwanji Temple is the Tokyo temple of the Jodo Shinshu (sect) [Shin Buddhism] Hongwanji-ha (sub-sect), which is one of the largest Japanese Buddhist denominations. The Mother Temple or Honzan is located in Kyoto. Due to the Mother Temple's geographic location within Kyoto, the denomination is commonly known as Nishi (West) Hongwanji.
Hongwanji is one of the earliest Japanese Buddhist Denominations to begin propagating abroad, with officially over a century and a half history overseas.

An outline of Jodo Shinshu:

Jodo Shinshu is a Buddhist Denomination. It is in the lineage of Jodo (Pure Land) Buddhism.  From the vast amount of teachings by the historical Shakamuni Buddha roughly 2500 years ago, succeeding Masters have propagated the teaching of NEMBUTSU or the recitation of the Buddha name, NAMO AMIDA BUTSU, through the centuries.

Shin Buddhism can be said to have been founded by Shinran Shonin (1173-1263) in Japan [Shonin is a title of respect meaning "sacred person"].  As a successor to Master Honen (1133-1212), the Founder of Jodo-shu (Pure Land School), the Shonin's teaching was based on the Pure Land tradition. His teaching maintained that SHINJIN, endowed by Amida Buddha, assured unconditional attainment of Buddhahood (or Enlightenment), once a person single-heartedly received Amida Buddha's HONGWAN (Original Intent). Shinran Shonin has stressed that Nembutsu is an expression of gratitude.
   It should be noted that Pure Land traditions existed in China, prior to being propagated to Japan.

The term Jodo Shinshu was used by Shinran Shonin, to mean "the true essence of the Pure Land Teachings" of Master Honen. Although the Shonin never deviated from the his stance that he was a disciple of Master Honen, this difference led to an independent sect from that of Jodo-shu through the generations. The sect eventually came to be called Jodo Shinshu (Shin Buddhism).

Currently, The Hongwanji-ha Hongwanji (HOMPA) and the Otani-ha Honganji (DAIHA) are the two largest sub-sects in this tradition.



The history of this temple dates back to the year 1617 when Junnyo Shonin, the 12th hierarchial leader or Monshu of the Hongwanji, established a temple at Yokoyama-cho near Asakusa in Edo(olden-day Tokyo). Called in those days as the Edo-Asakusa Gobo, the temple was lost to flames in the Great Fire of 1657. Unfortunately, permission for rebuilding at its original site was denied by the Tokugawa Bakufu (the feudal government) due to it not being in accord with its reconstruction plans for the area. Land allocated in exchange was a parcel of land off the shoreline of Hatchobori which had to be reclaimed from the sea. This land reclamation and reconstruction project was undertaken by countless devout followers centered around those living on nearby Tsukudajima. The word Tsukiji literally means "built-up land", pointing to the fact that this district was obviously reclaimed land. The district around the temple is called Tsukiji due to such historical background. When the Main Worhip Hall or Hondo was built on this land, the temple came to be called Tsukiji Gobo.

Current Structure:

As with most other buildings in Tokyo, the previous grand wooden temple building was lost in the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake. Under the direction of Monshu Kozui Ohtani (Myonyo Shonin), the 22rd Monshu, the present ferro-concrete temple building with its Indian architectural motif was designed by Chuta Ito, Professor of the Faculty of Architecture at Tokyo University. The reconstruction began in the year 1931 and was completed in 1934, displaying the fervent devotion of the Shinshu followers.


The Temple Complex

The Temple Hondo (Main Worship Hall)

^ The Dai-ichi Dendo KaikanThe Dai-ni Dendo Kaikan ^

Tsukiji Hongwanji is located at 3-15-1 Tsukiji, Chuo Ward, Tokyo. It is a brisk fifteen minute walk towards the Harumi Pier from the Ginza, or about seven minutes from the KABUKI Theater. Access is also possible using the Hibiya Line Subway "TSUKIJI Station", the O-Edo Subway Line "TSUKIJI-SHIJOH Station", or by Metropolitan bus. Nearby are the National Cancer Center and the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Fish Market.

The Hondo (Main Worship Hall)

Inside the Hondo

The Main Altar (Inner Adytum)

(left auxiliary altar) (right auxiliary altar)

The Buddha of Worship: Amida Buddha

The Central Buddha of Worship:
Amida Buddha (Buddha Amitabha, Amitayus)

Enshrined within the central altar in the Main Worhip Hall is the personified image of the Amida Buddha (Buddha Amitabha, Amitayus). Out of pure infinite wisdom and limitless compassion, the Amida Buddha vowed to give unconditional Enlightenment to all sentient beings, whose very nature could only look lightly upon the Buddha Dharma and/or have no other means of being saved. To express the Buddha's boundless wisdom and compassion, the Buddha image is shown to be emitting an unobstructable ray of compassion in all directions (the ten quarters), enveloping all beings. The standing image signifies the Buddha is dynamically pursuing to reach and save all beings by calling "Namo Amida Butsu" upon them to rely upon the Amida Buddha.
According to the sutras, while the Buddha was still the Bodhisattva Dharamakara (a practicing Bodhisattva; a Buddha aspirant), Vows were made to strive to attain a means of saving all beings without fail. The sutras further state that Bodhisattva Dharamakara fulfilled all and attained Enlightenment (Buddhahood) and came to be called the Amida Buddha. Through these Vows (Hongwan), those who attain birth in the Pure Land of Amida immediately receives the same amount of merits accumulated by the Bodhisattva Dharmakara in the process of becoming the Amida Buddha and therefore is able to attain Buddhahood, whereafter they will also be taking an active role in helping other sentient beings attain Enlightenment.


The Founder: Shinran Shonin (1173-1262)

Shinran Shonin (1173-1262) (right auxiliary altar)

An image of the founder of Jodo Shinshu Sect, Shinran Shonin, is enshrined within the right auxiliary altar.
Shinran Shonin never intended to establish a new sect, but was only a follower of Master Honen. Although this is true, the deviation from Master Honen's Jodo-shu was inherent, as Shinran Shonin's teachings placed complete reliance upon Amida Buddha's HONGWAN TARIKI (The Amida Buddha's Very Intent). Master Honen's Jodo-shu did not. This critical difference eventually led to the establishment of a new sect by the succeeding Shinran followers.
Lost in a labyrinth of personal desires, it is impossible for us sentient beings living in the present time known as "Period of Decedant Dharma" to free oneself of suffering and ignorance by relying upon one's own power. Shinran Shonin spent his life of 90 years in the propagation of the Nembutsu, or Amida Buddha's call from the Pure Land which can be heard as saying, "I will protect all of you." This calling is aimed at all those living a life similar to one struggling in quicksand, with no other way of being saved except for meeting with this Amida's calling.
Only by relying upon Amida's Vow (Tariki: Action on part of the Amida Buddha) and living accordingly with Shinjin (absolute assurance endowed by Amida Buddha) can one endure the sufferings and hardships of our lifetime, transforming each of them into meaningful "once-in-a-lifetime" occurences. The transmission from India, to China and Japan of this ever-powerful, all-encompassing Vow of Amida Buddha can be seen in Shinran Shonin's main writing, KYO-GYO-SHIN-SHO.
The Nembutsu has since been propagated worldwide.

Shonyo Shonin (The 23rd Monshu)

Shonyo Shonin (left auxiliary altar)

Shonyo Shonin (1911-2002) was the 23rd MONSHU of the Nishi Hongwanji in Kyoto, which is the Mother Temple of the Tsukiji Hongwanji.
The MONSHU is the Spiritual Leader and Head of the Hongwanji, and is a direct descendant of Shinran Shonin.
Shonyo Shonin dynamically traveled to spread the Nembutsu Teachings both domestically and abroad, so that both priests and lay will not be followers "in name only".
He was the previous Resident Minister of the Tsukiji Hongwanji.


E-Mail: K. Yamamoto

URL: www.myouenji.ws
Text - Copyright 1995 - 2012, KYamamoto.
Photographs courtesy of Tsukiji Hongwanji Betsuin, copyright 1995.
Web Layout - Copyright; 1995 through 2012. K. Yamamoto / Myouenji

About the author:

Koshin Yamamoto is the head resident priest at Myouenji Buddhist Temple in Kawasaki. He is also one of the English speaking ministers affiliated with Tsukiji Hongwanji.