This Old Tokyo shitamachi neighborhood has a temple where we can watch a fire ceremony with taiko drums, a dragon fountain that grants wishes written on dissolving paper, and is one of the most beautiful and uncrowded places to see cherry blossoms in Tokyo.
This is a true undiscovered gem of an Old Tokyo neighborhood. Let’s start by going to a fire ceremony at the Fukugawa Fudo temple, and end up under the cherry blossoms!
Fire ceremonies are held five times daily (at 9:00, 11:00, 13:00, 15:00 and 17:00). Let’s take off our shoes (we can carry them in one of the plastic bags provided), then sneak in and watch from the back, where we can look down on the altar area. The ceremony takes 30-60 minutes, and is filled with taiko drumming, chanting, the blowing of conch shells and the tossing of wooden prayer sticks into a bonfire that blazes up quite spectacularly in front of the altar.
Note: It’s strictly forbidden to take photos and videos during the ceremonies, because they are actual religious services. I know it’s tempting, but please don’t be That Tourist. (The photos I’ve included here are icky and fuzzy because I got them from the temple’s website.)
Afterwards, let’s go into the big modern cube next door, the one with the Fudo sutra written all over the outside in giant Sanskrit characters.
Back outside, let’s not leave before we make a wish at the dragon fountain!
And if we happen to be in Monzen-nakacho at the right time of year (late March – early April) we can walk to the bridges crossing the canal by the station to see one of the best displays of cherry blossoms in all of Tokyo.
Next, let’s head down the street to the Tomioka Shrine, which is a big read and gold one.
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Jonelle Patrick is the author of five novels set in Japan
The Last Tea Bowl Thief was chosen as an Editor’s Pick for Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense on Amazon
“A fascinating mix of history and mystery.” —Booklist
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