Things to do in Tokyo suburbs : Jindaiji Temple & Darma Dolls Fair in March

In early March. Signs of spring are emerging in Tokyo. The cherry blossoms are preparing for blooming.  About one more month, we will see the full bloom. Jindaiji temple is one of the best valuable place to visit as it is the second oldest temple in Tokyo. Especially, if you would be here in the begging of March, you were very very lucky to see Darma Doll festival.

Second choices to visit (in Tokyo) except Golden Course

If you come to Japan for the first time and staying for only a short period (3 to 5 days), I think that it is correct to choose the Golden Course (Tokyo, Mt. Fuji, Kyoto ,Nara, Osaka).

However, if your stay is a little longer, it would be an option for consideration to visit the suburbs of Tokyo. One of the best options is Jindaiji temple (深大寺 in Japanese)and Mt.Takao. The temple is the second oldest temple in Tokyo and many places to enjoy around. Mt.Takao is certified as a 3 star in Michelin Guide. Both are places within 1 hour by train from central Tokyo.

Please refer the information about Mt.Takao at the bottom of this blog – (5) Practical&Useful Information.

Jindaiji temple (深大寺)

Jindaiji is the second oldest temple in Tokyo. It is in the western part of Tokyo (Tama Area) taking  40 minites from mid central of Tokyo by train and bus. There are not many foreign tourists visiting. But about 60,000 people visit here every year during the fair for two days, 03&04March.

This is the entrance of the temple and the approach to the main hall of the temple. The history of the temple is about 1,300 years ago (733 AD). It have been repaired over and over again until today.

If you are interested in the history of “Jindaiji”, you will find English Guidance of the official site of the temple below.

About Jindaiji temple History http://www.jindaiji.or.jp/language/english.pdf

▲The whole map in the temple. Even now it has not changed so much.

Four reasons why I can recommend to visit Jindaiji ? 

Place where you can feel the real natural features and local people’s life

One of the reason why I can recommend is the place where you can feel the real natural features and local people’s life in the suburbs of Tokyo.

The atmosphere of older times is strongly remained. You will find the unique nature (green, clean natural water). These feature are different from the mid center of Tokyo.  There are plenty of hot foods and drinks. You can enjoy while you eat from the approach to the precincts.

Japanese traditional arts – ceramics experience

In addition you can try Japanese traditional arts – ceramics experience with cheaper price. They offer more than 100 kinds of unglazed baked goods such as bowls, plates and figurines. After choosing your favorite unglaze, challenge to paint with 10 color paints! Once completed, the staff will take care of them and bake them with glaze. Why do not you enjoy the scent of Japanese harmony in the nostalgic shop ? The firing time is very short, 20 minutes, so it is OK to take it during that day. (30minutes / 900JPY (8us$,6euro)~depending on Unglazed goods)

You can enjoy local traditional noodle “Jindaiji Soba”

The temple is famous for Soba (buckwheat noodles). It is the place where many of historical great figures stopped by here to fill their stomach from old times. There are more than 20 Soba restaurants in and around the temple. Japanese tourists all over Japan come and eat Soba here.

What is Soba ?  As you may know, Soba is Buckwheat noodles, the most popular varieties of Japanese noodles. It is made by mixing buckwheat flour with water and wheat flour, kneading it, spreading it out thinly and cutting it into long thin noodles.

 

You may have surprising benefits to see a special event.

There are 7 times (Jan, Feb, March, May, Oct) traditional and religious events in Jindaiji. If your visit time matches, you will have surprising benefits for it.

We can see the pictures on the website. It is in Japanese language, but pictures would be enough for you to imagine what kind of events.

Dharma Dolls Fair (called Dharma-ichi) in March

Early March every year, Dharma Dolls Fair (Dharma-ichi) is held. This is one of the three major Dharma Fairs in Japan. It has been loved as a seasonal event since Edo period, more than 300 years history.

What is  ”Daruma” ?  Red dolls in the pictures are “Dharma”. Briefly speaking, ”Dharma” is a traditional Japanese doll representing Bodhidharma. Dharma dolls always rise after falling down. The people buy Dharma pray for warding off evil and for accomplishment of all wishes.  There are many Dharma dolls in a row in the precincts and around the gates of the temple.

Usually, when they buy a Dharma, they write a black dot (eyeball) in one eye. And when the wish is satisfied, fill with the black eyeball in the other eye and dedicate to the temple.

However, in Jindaiji the customs are quite different.

If you wish, the monk writes the Chinese character “Ah (阿)” in the left eye instead of a black dot (eyeball). This is the word that replaced Sanskrit word (梵語) of India with kanji. India is the Birthplace (origin) of Buddhism. It is a language unique to Japanese Buddhism.

If the people’s wish come true or passed the year, they fullfilll the other side of eyes with the character “Um (吽)“. which means “Yeah” but pronounce “Um”.

“Ah (Ah)” corresponds to A of the alphabet. “Um (吽)“ corresponds to Z of the alphabet. In other words, these two characters mean the symbol of “the Root of all things” or “They have a good chemistry(harmonized)”.

Size of Dharma dolls is various, big and small. Prices range is from around 1000 JPY(10us$、7euro) to as much as 10,000 JPY (100us$,75euro) if it is big.

Doll’s face is also different !! They will try to find a face similar to themselves !!!

When it is a festival in Japan, stalls(outdoor stand shops) are always out. They sell food and playing toys with children.

Children enjoy games of goldfish scoops and toys wide. Everyone of the Japanese has a memory that they enjoyed the festival game with their children, brought by their parents.Such a landscape is very nostalgic but still now.

Many of the masks are of  animated characters, unique in Japan

Eating at a food stall is one of the fun things at the Japanese festival.

Typical festival scenery anywhere in Japan (stalls, stalls=called YATAI in Japanese).

Practical&Useful Information

How to visit , Places visited worth in the neighborhood ?

There are some very useful information to visit and enjoy other places near.

Access Information

Must-See Japan

Access by Keio Railway Line

Places to stop by other valuable spots
HOT spring Yumori-no-sato near Jindaiji

 6-7minites from Jindaiji on foot.
Link  Yumori no Sato

Mt. Takao

 40minites from the nearest station “Chofu”station with Keio Railway Line.
40minites from the nearest station “Mitaka”station with JR Railway Line.
Link  3 star in Michelin Guide (Michelin website)
Takaosan (Mount Takao) (japan-guide.com)

Ghibli Museum(※)

30minutes from Jindaiji by bus.
25minites from the nearest station “Mitaka”station with JR Railway Line.
Link  Ghibli Museum(Museum official site) / Ghibli Mueum  (Michelin website)

(※) the former studio of the most talented animated film-maker, Miyazaki Hayao. The work of Miyazaki Hayao includes Princess Mononoke (1997), Spirited Away (2001), Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) and Ponyo (2008).