Saitama's Magnificent Menuma Shodenzan Kangiin Temple (妻沼聖天山歓喜院)

Kanto Tour Temple 2019.08.14
The Menuma Shodenzan Kangiin Temple is an official national treasure of Japan, thanks to the opulent carvings and lacquer gracing its walls, and you'll find it just a short distance from the Rugby World Cup's Kumagaya Stadium.
About the Temple
  • The Menuma Shodenzan Kangiin Temple is dedicated to the deity Shoden, who also goes by Kangiten, who is often depicted with an elephant head, a la the Hindu Ganesha. A prayer to Shoden might convince him to bestow you with fortune, success, health, and general good luck, but the real benefit to visiting the temple is a look at the glorious decoration carved into the walls.
  • Construction on the temple originally began in 1179, thanks to local Shoden worshipper Saito Betto Sanemori. With the following years came increasing additions to the grounds, new buildings and renovations to older structures beaten down by time. Today Menuma Shodenzan is one of the top three temples devoted to Shoden worship in Japan, and its beauty has earned it national treasure status.

    Because of the striking carvings (done in part by the same people), and the general Gongen architecture, visitors sometimes say the temple looks like Nikko Toshogu Shrine in Tochigi, giving it the nickname "Nikko of Saitama."
The Beautifully Carved Kangiin Shodendo Main Hall
  • Due to a number of fires, the Kangiin Shodendo has burned down and been rebuilt a few times over its millennium or so in existence. The building currently standing was built between 1735 and 1760, and still impresses visitors from around the world. The big draw for travelers is the careful carving applied to the outer walls of the structure. Architect Ginpachiro Ishihara, who had connections to the renovators of Nikko Toshogu, directed the construction of decorations featuring little characters going about daily life, animals exploring the space, and much more.
  • We can thank renovations and repairs that finished about a decade ago for the excellent condition of these beautiful carvings. Moving around the walls, you'll clearly see really varied scenes depicted in startling detail, with nary an inch untouched. We enjoyed this little vignette of ladies playing what looks like a game of backgammon. Just look at the exquisite patterning on that robe! And the expression on the face of that disdainful demon sitting nearby.
  • Admission to the hall, where you'll see the beautiful carvings, will cost you 700 yen. If you or a friend speaks Japanese, try to get there between 10:00 and 16:00, when local volunteers give tours and tell you more about the temple's lengthy history. The temple is, after all, both gorgeous and historic!

    Menuma Shodenzan Kangiin (妻沼聖天山歓喜院)
    Address: 1511 Menuma, Kumagaya, Saitama
    Access: From Kumagaya Station, take a bus and get off at Shoden-mae bus stop.
    Hours: 10:00 - 16:30
    Admission: 700 yen
    Official Website

    More Nearby, in Saitama:
    Nagatoro River Rafting
    Mitsumine Jinja
    Kawagoe Castle​
    Ippon Udon - Single Noodle Udon


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