Azabu-Juban: Visiting the temple of Daikokuten the god with the best smile in Japan

“Azabu-Juban Shopping Street” is one of Tokyo’s most well-known shopping streets. Some long-established shops have been here for over 100 years, while others follow the latest trends. Close to this lively shopping district is the temple of Daikokuten, the god with the best smile in Japan!

Azabu Juban

Exploring the streets of Azabu Juban.

Map of Azabu-Juban Shopping Street

A look at the map of Azabu-Juban Shopping Street shows: there is A LOT to discover here.

Daihoji Temple

If you walk through Azabu-Juban shopping district from Azabu-juban Station and go up Daikokuzaka hill in the residential area, you will find a temple called “Daihoji”. Built in 1597 and with a history of over 400 years, Daihoji Temple’s main deity is called Daikokuten (written with the characters meaning “big black heaven”). Originally Daikokuten was a Hindu god who is good at fighting. But in Japan, he is known for being the smiling deity out of the famous seven “shichifukujin” deities. Daikokuten stands for prosperity and good fortune. He holds a hammer in his hand and when he shakes it, goods fall out of it. He also carries a large bag on his back and stands on a rice bag so nobody has to be hungry.

People from China, India, and all around the world come to visit this temple.

The Daikokuten worshipped at Daihoji Temple is sometimes called “Azabu Ipponmatsu Daikokuten” (meaning “Daikokuten close to the single pine tree at Azabu”) because there is an impressive pine tree near the temple. The pine tree has a long history. It is said that it has been in this place for over 1000 years. Of course, the tree today isn’t the same. It has been replanted several times and people believe its already the third generation of the tree…but who knows!

You can see the “Ipponmatsu” pine tree on the left in the background behind the Daikokuzaka sign.

There are various legends about the Ipponmatsu tree. One legend is about a famous warlord who hung his clothes on this tree, another one says that the skulls of the defeated enemies who died in a battle were brought to this place and (after checking them) buried under the tree.

Daihoji is a small and very cute temple. When you visit the main hall, you can see various statues of Daikokuten. All of them have a lovely smile. When I visited the temple, I was very surprised when a young Buddhist monk proposed that I should touch the antique wooden figure of Daikokuten. He said: “It’s from the Edo period (1600-1867)! It’s a rare chance to touch something so old! Go ahead and feel free to take a picture!

The smiling Daikokuten statues.

A little mouse.

The most important Daikokuten statue of Daihoji Temple is named “Sanjin Gusoku Daikoku-sonten”. He is a trinity of three deities. He has Daikokuten’s hammer (for luck), Benzaiten’s hair (fulfillment), and wears Bishamonten’s armor (protection from bad things). In other words, it’s a “Super Daikokuten”! Taking pictures of this holy statue is prohibited and it is only shown to the public at the beginning of each year.

When I visited the temple at the beginning of the year, I received amazake made by a 90-year-old grandma. It was delicious!

Amazake Drink

Not only Japanese people but also foreigners are very welcomed in this temple. The motto is: let’s make everyone leave the temple with a smile on his/her face! When you visit at the beginning of the year, guests are served hot sweet “amazake” as a drink, and in February, a fun “throwing beans event” is held. I don’t know if it was Daikokuten’s power, but my visit to Daihoji Temple made me really smile.

A basketball goal for playing basketball on the left side of the main hall. It conveys the “welcoming approach” of the temple.


Daihoji Temple

1-1-10 Motoazabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/d2mF3C5UgEyx7F338
Nearest station: Azabu-juban Station

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I was born and raised in Kiel/Germany. When I was 16 I came to Japan for the first time. I fell in love with this beautiful country, so I returned after my university graduation. Since then, I have been living in Tokyo - and I don't plan to change anything about that ;-) My hobbies are taking a stroll around the city, taking photos and drinking coffee.

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