Connor Lappin

Free Classes at Shakaden Reiyukai

One of Tokyo's best kept secrets

Connor Lappin
Connor Lappin   - 3 min read

Lying at the foot of Tokyo Tower and amongst the chaos of suburban Minato sits one of Tokyo’s best kept secrets. This is Shakaden Reiyukai, a Buddhist temple, community center and upside down spaceship all rolled into one. The fact that a building of this magnitude can remain so unknown is itself a mystery.

The original Shakaden Reiyukai Temple was built in 1925 for the followers of Shakyamuni Buddha; however the original construction was torn down and replaced by the current building in 1975. The current structure is revered globally as a modernist masterpiece resembling something between a granite pyramid and a modern football stadium.

Whilst the temple functions as the operating headquarters for a Buddhist sect, it coexists as a de-facto community center. Whilst not a traditional Buddhist temple in appearance or functionality, visitors are welcome and free Japanese classes are offered to all.

In addition to free language classes, the Shakaden complex offers courses ranging from study groups to calligraphy classes. Equally guests are welcome to visit the entirety of the hulking compound which includes a book shop, nursery and a medical center.

Not dissimilar to a space ship, the sole entry to the complex is a long flight of stairs that lead to a perched gateway. Once inside guests can be excused for thinking that they might have actually left downtown Tokyo.

The interior is wholly constructed of marble which adds to the gloomy feel while also keeping the temple cool and perfect for a midday retreat from the Tokyo sun.

The great hall which can accommodate 3,500 people at any one time is the temple’s centerpiece; however photography of any kind is strictly prohibited.

Guests can also view the 8-meter Buddha statue carved completely of a thousand year old Camphor wood. Oddly enough, the Shakaden Reiyuaki complex also houses a reservoir containing 400 tons of drinking water to be used in case of an emergency.

Whilst not the main site to see in Minato, located just a few hundred meters from the Tokyo Tower and Shiba Park, the quirky Shakaden Reiyukai Temple is definitely worth a visit, even if it is just to refine your Japanese skills.

Tips & How to Get There

The entrance to the complex itself is free, but for the best views of the temples architecture, head up to the Tokyo Tower observation deck. 

Located in the heart of Minato, the best way to get there is taking the Hibiya Line to Kamiyacho and then walking southward for 5 minutes.

From the Tokyo Tower it is located a 5 minute walk directly north.

Connor Lappin

Connor Lappin @connor.lappin

Connor Lappin