Having lived here for ages, I was surprised to learn that Tokyo had a Daibutsu (Great Buddha statue) of it’s own. Of course, everyone is aware of the Daibutsu statues in Nara’s Tōdaiji & Kamakura’s Kōtoku-in but this one is tucked away in the spacious & serene confines of Jōrenji Temple ~乗蓮寺(which was relocated to Akatsuka in 1971), in an obscure and quiet residential area in Itabashi ward.
Jōrenji Temple is a historic Jodo Buddhist sect temple founded in the 15th century but came into prominence during the Tokugawa regime (1603 ~1868). It became a place to rest for shogun families after Falconry (falcon hunting). One can find the Tokugawa family crest of triple hollyhock everywhere.
Just before you enter the temple gates, to your right you will see ‘Enmado‘ the chamber of the God of Hell – Enma. When you pass through the gate bearing the Tokugawa crest, a flight of steps will take you through the impressive wooden gateway called ‘Sanmon’, which is flanked by two demons on either side glaring at you (a common site at Sensōji Temple in Asakusa). When you reach the top you will see the main building (Hondō) right in front of you. If you turn right, you will see the imposing Daibutsu sitting on a lotus pedestal in it’s equanimous pose. It was erected in 1977 to commemorate those who lost their lives in the Great Kanto earthquake (1923) and World War II, and also in the hope that the area will be protected from any form of disaster. It’s 13 meters (42.7 feet) in height and weighs 32 tons !
Strolling around the temple grounds you will come across a lot of unique statues including ‘shichifukujin‘ or the seven deities of good fortune. Due to it’s obscurity, this place is spared from the touristy crowds, so if you are looking to run away from the humdrum of city life and want to find some peace of mind, body & soul, just head over to Jōrenji Temple. And, if you are a nature lover, the Akatsuka Botanical Garden is right next door.
Narimasu station (Mos Burger was founded here in 1972) is just one stop (10 min) from Ikebukuro station on the Tobu-Tojo line. Make sure you get on the Express / Semi-express / Rapid train. The Local train takes about 20 min though. From Narimasu station it is a 15-20 min walk, you can take the bus from the North exit or my choice, to avoid getting a heat stroke in Tokyo Summers, would be a taxi. Just keep in mind the hours are 8am to 4pm. Entrance is free.