By Selena Hoy
Journeys along the train lines in Tokyo is fascinating. As the train whizzes by, segments of local life glimpses pass you and you can get a feeling of how life is like out of the big city. Thus, it was along one of these train journeys that I stumbled upon Choukouzan Myoren Temple.
Choukouzan Myoren Temple is just a minute walk from Myorenji Station (Tokyu Toyoko Line) and behind the main temple lies a lush Japanese garden with shoots of bonsai trees prodding up into the evening sky.
The temple dates back to 1350 when it first opened and back then it was called Myouzanji. However, in 1908, due to the construction of the JR Yamanote line, the temple had to be relocated to its current location Renkouji. Thus, its name was changed to incorporate the ´Myou´ from its previous name with the ´Ren´ of Renkouji to become Choukouzan Myoren Temple.
Unfortunately, I was there in the evening and the temple was closed. Nonetheless, the temple grounds was still open for exploration. The first thing that caught my attention was a little shrine stationed to the right of the main gate. The tiny shrine was flanked by miniature Japanese lanterns with tiny monks lying within the confines of the interior.
Looking up, I came across a scary mask tucked above the attic of the temple roof. It definitely looked imposing and it reminded me of Namahage, a demon in Japanese Folklore (there is even a museum in Akita about it).
To the right of the temple was a local cemetery and since I´ve never been to a Japanese cemetery before, it was indeed an eye opener. Japanese cemeteries are very distinct from its Western counterparts. The reason is because instead of the cross, Japanese Buddhist cemeteries have elongated wooden tablets that are placed behind the tombstone. These elongated wooden tablets contain well wishes and blessing from family members and not just anyone can get their hands on these tablets. You are required to go to a shop that specializes in producing them and there will be a residential master who would engrave words on these wooden tablets for you.
My adventure around the temple ground lasted for around 20 minutes or so. The garden was spectacular, with a tiny waterfall (around 4 meters) hidden within all the greenery, Nonetheless, I will recommend tourist to come to this temple only if they are on their way to Yokohama or if they are staying in Japan for more than a month. The reason is because it takes awhile to travel here from Tokyo, being an hour from Ikebukuro.
However, this temple is a stellar example of what local temples are like and they provide an alternative to the temples more frequented by tourists like Sensoji, with their vendors and large crowds. If its peace and quiet you want, do come to Choukouzan Myoren Temple, take a walk within the temple ground and listen to the waterfall trickle away.
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Experiences, Experiences Experiences! or if you like, Experencia, Experencia, Experencia! The only thing I seek for while traveling is to gain experiences. Why? Well, travelling provides us with the platform to learn, and the more people you meet, the more you understand the underbelly of the country. The more local food that you eat, the more you understand their culinary delights. The more time you spend in a country, the more you become a local. In the end, you learn and that`s what I`m seeking for. To learn and to grow, and to share it with you:)