Zojo-ji Temple from “The Wolverine”

Zojo-ji Temple or San’en-zan Zōjō-ji is the head temple of the Jōdo-shū(“Pure Land”) Chinzei sect of Buddhism in the Kanto region.

Zozo-ji Temple, Minato, Japan. | Dennis Amith

Located next to Tokyo Tower in the Shiba neighborhood of Minato with Shiba park surrounding the temple, Zojoji is mostly recognized for its ties with the Tokugawa clan, the rulers of Japan during the Edo period. Six of the Tokugawa shoguns are buried in the Taitoku-in Mausoleum in the temple grounds.

Kūkai, also known as Kōbō-Daishi (The Grand Master Who Propagated the Buddhist Teaching), had a disciple named Shūei. He founded the temple named Kōmyō-ji at Kaizuka, present-day Kōjimachi in Chiyoda. Zojoji Temple is said to have originated from Kōmyō-ji. Many centuries later, during the Muromachi period in 1393, at the time of Yūyo Shōsō, Zojoji, the temple converted from the Shingon to the Jōdo school (“pure land” Buddhism). Shōsō is then considered to be the founded of the present-day Zojoji Temple.

During the Edo period, Zōjō-ji Temple along with Kaneiji were considered to be the Tokugawa’s family temple.

San’en-zan Zōjō-ji. | Dennis Amith

Tokugawa Ieyasu initially ordered the temple moved to Hibiya, but in 1590, when the Edo Castle was undergoing expansion, it was moved to its present location. The fall of the Tokugawa shogunate turned the temple grounds into something like a public park Over the years, Zōjō-ji’s original buildings, mausoleums, temples, and the cathedral were destroyed by various circumstances like fires, natural disasters, and World War II air raids. The temple’s main gate (Sangadetsumon) is considered to be the oldest wooden building in Tokyo dating as far back as 1622.

In 2015, a treasure Gallery opened on the underground level of the great hall  (Daiden) which currently houses paintings by Kanō Kazunobu, a Japanese painter of the Kanō school. He produced mainly Buddhist paintings and is best known for his highly acclaimed “Five Hundred Arhats”.

Zōjō-ji Temple is also famous for another reason. It was featured in the Hollywood film, “The Wolverine”, of the X-Men franchise starring Hugh Jackman.

Logan at Zozo-ji Temple,Japan.  | Image from The Mind Reels

The main hall of the temple was also used for the funeral of Wolverine’s good friend Mr. Yashida. To get to Zōjō-ji , it only takes three minutes from Onarimon station or Shibakoen station (Tokyo Metro Mita Line) and five minutes from Daimon station (Tokyo Metro Asakusa Line or Oedo Line).