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Sogen-ji Temple, the “Kappa” Temple

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2021.10.28 (Thu)

By Charlotte, long-term Tokyo resident & history-loving traveler

Halloween is just around the corner. For most people, Halloween brings up images of monsters like ghosts, vampires, and Dracula. In Japan, people believe in “yōkai”, which is similar to Western spirits. One of these “yōkai” is called “Kappa”, an amphibian which is around the size of a human child and has a shell and scales on its back as well as webbed legs and hands; it is well known among the Japanese population and has been immortalized in the form of various characters. Today, I would like to introduce you to Sogen-ji Temple, a temple in Taito City which worships the “kappa”.

Located 10 minutes by foot from Ueno Station, Sogen-ji Temple is very accessible. It was relocated to its current position due to a fire in 1657 but it was first established in 1588, so it is a temple with a long history spanning more than 400 years. The reason the temple worships the kappa lies in the legend of Kappaya Kihachi. He invested his own fortune and effort to excavate the river near Sogen-ji Temple at the time, improving the soil which had poor drainage for the nearby residents. The kappa from Sumida River whom Kihachi rescued in the past helped in the excavation, and it is said that the businesses of people who saw the kappa thrived. So, people began to worship the kappa as “Kappa Daimyōjin” great shinning diety and Sogen-ji Temple became known as the “Kappa Temple”.

Sogen-ji Temple is filled with kappa in every corner, with a ceiling painting of the kappa as well as paintings, exhibits, and stone statues of the kappa. Additionally, the “Kappa Daimyōjin” worshiped here is still believed to grant its worshipers a prosperous business and protection from fire and water accidents.

To find out more about Sogen-ji Temple, please check out the website below!
https://www.sogenji.jp/

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