In its heyday, Zojoji extended over an area of 826,000 m2 and had 3000 priests and students of Buddhism dispersed over 48 minor temples and 150 schools on its precincts. It remains one of Japan’s most important Buddhist temples today.
During the Edo period, this temple served as a family temple for the Tokugawa family, the shoguns of that time. One of the Tokugawa mausoleums is here, 6 former shoguns’ graves are on the grounds of the Zojoji temple. The original temple was destroyed many times, the last time being WW2. One structure, however, dates back to 1622 and survived many disasters: the main entrance gate or Sangedatsumon. If you want to know more about the history of this temple and see what it looked like before WW2, head over to the small museum in the basement of the temple’s main hall.
You should also not miss Zojoji’s impressive garden with a large number of jizo statues. These statues are here to commemorate children lost during pregnancy or around birth, and many of the bibs and hats that are worn by the statues are made and left by grieving parents.
Over the year many festivals are held on the temple grounds, and daily Buddhist ceremonies are taking place in the main hall. If you are lucky and come at the right time, you can hear the taiko drums that are played during the ceremonies. Also, don’t miss this temple around cherry blossom time, the area is full of cherry trees in full bloom around late March-early April.