Yushima Seido

Yushima Seido Kanda Tokyo

Yushima Seido 湯島聖堂

Yushima Seido Overview

Yushima Seido (lit. "Yushima Sacred Hall") is a venerable Confucian temple that dates back to the Edo Period of Japanese history. Yushima Seido occupies a walled block of Tokyo's Yushima district, a short walk from Ochanomizu Station (across Hijiri Bridge), or a short walk from Akihabara's Mansei Bridge.

Confucianism stresses the improvability of people through endeavor. This philosophical import from mainland China has profoundly influenced the thinking, attitudes and morals of the Japanese, making Yushima Seido a very important historical institution.

Yushima Seido's role today is to stress the importance of the contribution of Chinese history and culture in modern Japanese life.

Yushima Seido Temple, Yushima district, Tokyo..
Yushima Seido dates back to the Edo Period of Japanese history

Yushima Seido History

Yushima Seido has its origins in the private Confucian temple, the Sensei-den (先聖殿), built by the neo-Confucian scholar and tutor to the first four shoguns, Hayashi Razan. The Sensei-den was located in what is now Ueno Park but was moved after Razan's death to its present location by the the fifth shogun Tsunayoshi Tokugawa in 1690.

The building was renamed the Taiseiden (大成殿) and became an official training school for Tokugawa officials in 1797. The principal's position, known as Daigaku-no-kami, was hereditary and was passed down initially from a son of Hayashi Razan, remaining in the Hayashi family through natural and adopted sons until the Taiseiden was abolished as a school at the beginning of the Meiji era in 1871.

Post 1871 the site has been utilized by various institutions including the Ministry of Education, the Tokyo National Museum, and Ochanomizu University.

Yushima Seido was originally painted vermilion but after several fires was repainted black in 1799. The present structure is made of reinforced concrete and was built in 1935 after the wooden buildings were destroyed in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923.

Daiseidan of Yushima Seido Temple, Tokyo.
Daiseidan Main Building, Yushima Seido
Yushima Seido precincts, Ochanomizu.
Yushima Seido precincts, Ochanomizu - Daiseidan Main Building at back left

Yushima Seido Precincts

Yushima Seido is a pleasant and peaceful place to contemplate and stroll. Most of Yushima Seido's charm is in its state of gentle dilapidation: the grounds are profusely green and unkempt, and, in spite of not being all that big a compound, it is overgrown enough to give the feel of somewhere to get lost in.

Entering from the street, the initial impression is not very memorable: a large, dirty-looking building that seems to house offices. However, if you proceed through the Gyohkoh-mon gate to the left and up the stone path, a strong sense of history and former greatness starts to be felt. A little along and to the right is a large bronze statue of Confucius (said to be the world's largest), surrounded by trees including a large, dramatic Pistacia chinensis Bunge grown from a seedling of a tree at Confucius's grave, and brought over from China in 1915.

Further up the path, around a bend, is the entrance to the compound of the main building. Passing through the Hijiribashi-mon gate takes you to the beautiful semi-wild grove of the next gate, the Nyutoku-mon (constructed in 1704), flanked by a great camphor tree (kusunoki in Japanese) on the left and an ilex tree (mochinoki) on the right.

The last gate, the Kyodan-mon, marks the site of the original academy building. There is a huge, tortured sudajii tree (a member of the beech family) at top of the steps.

Through the Kyodan-mon gate is the big black main building, the Taiseidan. Everything here is simplicity itself, basically in black, with simple designs in red. The courtyard in front of the main building is large, and lends extra gravity to its imposing columned, black facade. The roof of the hall is topped with two cocks at either end, with ravenous-looking tigers hunched and prowling on the roof lower down. On weekends and public holidays, for a 200 yen fee, you can look around inside the building, but which consists of only one room.

The Taiseiden honors five Confucian figures, whose statues are on display here:
Confucius (551–479 B.C.), the great philosopher who propounded a system of personal and public morality.
Mencius (372-289 B.C.), the next most famous Confucian scholar after the great Confucius himself.
Yan Hui (513-482 B.C.), a disciple of Confucius and revered as one of the Four Sages of Confucianism.
Zengzi (505-435 B.C.), a disciple of Confucius, another of the Four Sages, who began the line of traditional Confucius teachers.
Zisi (481–402 B.C.), the grandson of Confusius, who passed Confucianism onto Mencius.

Along with nearby Yushima Tenjin, Yushima Seido is a popular place for students praying for success in school and university entrance exams.

Ema votive plaques, Yushima Seido, Ochanomizu, Tokyo.
Ema votive plaques reading "Exam success," Yushima Seido, Ochanomizu, Tokyo
Entrance of Yushima Seido Temple, Tokyo.
The inner courtyard of Yushima Seido

Yushima Seido Events

Yushima Seido has six traditional events every year.
New Year Ceremony: January 1-4, 10 a.m. to sundown.
Confucius Festival: fourth Sunday of April, from 10 a.m.
Acupuncture and Moxibustion Festival: third Sunday in May.
Cultural Lectures: three per year, one on Marine Day (third Monday in July), and two in winter.
Early Confucianists' Festival, honoring the founders of Confucianism, usually on the last Sunday in October.
Shennong Festival, honoring the legendary Chinese "Emperor of the Five Grains", on November 23 (Labor Thanksgiving Day).

Yushima Seido Hours

Yushima Seido is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (till 4 p.m. in winter)
The Taiseiden is open for public viewing on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays from 10 a.m. until closing time.

Yushima Seido is open every day, and closed only for three days a year: December 29, 30, 31.

Entrance of Yushima Seido Temple, Tokyo.
The inner courtyard of Yushima Seido

Yushima Seido Access

Yushima Seido
1-4-25 Yushima
Tel: (03) 3251 4606
Admission: Free

Google Map to Yushima Seido


Nearest train stations
-Ochanomizu Station is on both the Chuo-Sobu Line and Marunouchi Line of the Tokyo subway.
-Shin-Ochanomizu Station on the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line.
-Akihabara Station: about five minutes walk from Mansei Bridge

Yushima Seido is very close to the Yushima Tenjin, which is just behind it, and the Orthodox Nikolai Cathedral, just across the road and railway line from it, as is the Tokyo Medical & Dental University. The Japan Football Museum is a short walk away. The Akihabara electronics, home appliances, nerd culture neighborhood is just a few minutes walk east. Nearby hotels include the mid-range Tokyo Garden Palace and the compact Hotel Ochanomizu Inn.

Yushima Seido Temple, Yushima, Tokyo.
Courtyard columns at Yushima Seido

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