Enmeiji Temple 延命寺
Enmeiji Temple, less than five minutes walk from Minami Senju Station in northern Tokyo is the site of one of the main execution grounds in Tokyo during the Edo Period of Japanese history. Other Edo-era execution sites were Suzugamori in Shinagawa and Itabashi near present-day Itabashi Station north of Ikebukuro.
At Enmeiji Temple, and nearby Ekoin Temple, a branch temple of the main Ekoin Temple in Ryogoku, many of the victims executed at Kozukappara were given a cheap burial. The "Neck Chop Jizo" (Kubikiri Jizo) statue was erected here in 1741 at Enmeiji to offer solace to these poor souls.
The Jizo statue was damaged in the Tohoku Earthquake of March, 2011, but has subsequently been repaired. A panel on a wall of the temple details the damage and repair of this important Buddhist image.
Enmeiji Temple History
During the Edo Period (1603-1868) it is estimated that around 100,000 to 200,000 people were put to death at this site which began executions in 1651 and were only ended during the Meiji Period in 1873 in an attempt to curry favor with Western powers during Japan's drive to westernize and be treated as an equal partner.
Forms of execution under the Tokugawa shogunate varied according to the severity of the crime and included boiling, burning, crucifixion, decapitation and cutting the victim in half with a samurai sword.
Famous historical figures executed at Kozukappara Execution Grounds included the political activist Yoshida Shoin (1830-1859), the reformist samurai Hashimoto Sanai (1834-1859) and Yoarashi Okinu (1845-1872), a colorful ex-geisha, who poisoned one of her clients after falling in love with a kabuki actor.
There are memorials to Yoshida Shoin in Ekoin Temple along with Nezumi Kozo (aka Nakamura Jirokichi), an infamous burglar put to death in 1832 and Takahashi Oden (1848-1879), a murderess suspected of poisoning her husband. She was the last criminal to be executed by beheading in Japan in 1879.
Enmeiji Temple Features
Tightly squeezed against the railway tracks, Enmeiji's central feature is the 4m-tall "Neck Chop Jizo" (Kubikiri Jizo) statue fronting rows of gravestones and small Jizo images. The main statue was moved to its present location after the construction of the railway.
Enmeiji Temple is a Jodo sect temple of Japanese Buddhism.
Senju Arakawa is regarded as the starting point of Basho's journey to the Tohoku region of Japan recorded in his classic The Narrow Road to the Deep North. There are pavement plaques and a statue of the great haiku poet outside Minami-Senju Station.
Enmeiji Temple Access
It's a 20-30 minute (2km) walk south to the tourist attractions of Asakusa or cycle on a rental cycle or jump on a Hibiya Line subway train to Ueno or the electronics mecca of Akihabara. Asakusa is one stop on the Tsukuba Express from Minami-Senju.
Arakawa-ku, Tokyo 116-0003
Tel: 03 3807 0897
Hotels nearby Enmeiji Temple
Some recommended places to stay in the Minami-Senju area include the Hotel Palace, Aizuya Inn, Dorm Hostel Ebisuya, Tokyo Backpackers, Kangaroo and Hotel New Koyo. There are many places to choose from. See here for a fuller list of accommodations in Minami Senju, Tokyo.