puffyjet / CC BY 2.0

Fukagawa Fudo-do Temple

A temple with its past set to the future

puffyjet / CC BY 2.0
Sleiman Azizi   - 3 min read

One of the most strikingly contradictory temples to be found in Tokyo, Fukagawa Fudo-do Temple in Koto City is a neighbourhood temple famous not only for its like clockwork Goma fire ritual but also for its radical sense of the modern.

Established in the eighteenth century, the temple serves an esoteric branch of Shingon Buddhism. The former main hall of the temple still exists as part of the temple complex but it is the current main hall that grabs the visitor's attention. Strikingly modern in design, it brings to mind a chic boutique storefront from upmarket Omotesando in Harajuku.

The current main hall of the temple
The current main hall of the temple (Photo: Tak1701d / CC BY-SA 3.0)

Three times a month sees the temple staging the Goma fire ritual. Every two hours from 9am to 7pm, a fire is lit, monks chant their ancient sutras, drums are beaten and conch shells are sounded in a traditional effort to empower Fudo-myo, the wrathful Buddhist deity entrusted to cut a clear path towards awareness and understanding.

Enclosed by a darkness livened only by primeval fire and the sounds of the faithful, the Goma fire ritual stands in complete contrast to the temple's prayer corridor. Brightly lit with modern technology, an almost psychedelic 9500 miniature crystal statues of Fudo-myo are lined up on either side of the room.

The former main hall, still part of the temple complex
The former main hall, still part of the temple complex (Photo: Reggaeman / CC BY-SA 3.0)

The room next door is full of rows and rows of seated Fudo-myo statues carved from wood. The deity's customary fierce countenance is noted but to confuse the pious even further, upstairs on the second floor can be found an almost sci-fi distilled version of the 88 temples of the Shikoku Pilgrimage.

The Goma fire ritual may indicate a rich past but the temple's modern leanings suggest Fukagawa Fudo-do Temple clearly has its eyes set on the 21st century and beyond.

Getting there

Take the Tozai Line to Monzen-Nakacho Station. The temple is a 2-minute walk from Exit 1.

Sleiman Azizi

Sleiman Azizi @sleiman.azizi

I'm a Japanese Permanent Resident with over 600 published articles on Japan as well as 5 English language books inspired by traditional Japanese literature.I'm also the Regional Partner for Tokyo, so if you've anything to say about Japan's never ending capital - or just Japan in general - don't b...