Tentoku-ji

A 300 year-old temple in Akita

 By Victoria Kamila   May 11, 2016

The main hall at Tentoku-ji is only open one day of the year. At 300 years old, this temple is filled to the brim with history, at one point being home to a local damiyo (great feudal lords who were vassals of the shogun and were owners of private land) and the Sakata Clan. Almost every one of your senses can pick up on the age of this temple, right from the moment you walk through the first gate. The wood, though in still relatively good condition, has significantly greyed and has a soft, pleasant scent coming from it. Although more popular amongst locals than tourists, most Akitans attest to the significance of this temple in Japan’s cultural heritage.

The main hall is covered with a finely thatched roof, to make your way there you pass through two gates, the second of which is guarded by two red demons with a sinister expression carved into their faces. One local wrote that as a child, he had nightmares about these demons, and as an adult is still frightened and unsettled by their appearance.

One of my favourite features unique to Japanese temples and shrines is the cute statues you'll find placed throughout the grounds. Though old, Tentoku-ji is no exception to these additions. You’ll notice a number of statues of little sweeping monks in and around the grounds, something that added an acutely uplifting atmosphere to the otherwise undisturbed aura.

The temple is surrounded by a graveyard for veterans of the Sino-Japanese War, coating the whole of the area in a tranquil, quiet, and understated ambience. By no means is Tentoku-ji a luxury temple of sorts, but rather one that is reminiscent of an ancient time in Japan. To find out which day the main hall is open, please call the temple in advance.

From Akita Station it will take close to 35 minutes to walk here and 25 minutes by bus. The temple is most easily accessed by car and there is parking available. Inside the main hall there is more information on the history of the temple. Photography is prohibited. Just to the right of the temple there is also a path leading up the hill behind the temple that has stellar views of the city and is accompanied by cherry blossoms during sakura season each spring.

Written by Victoria Kamila
JapanTravel Member

Explore nearby

Join the discussion

Bonson Lam 10 months ago
Great photos of the monks, Victoria!