Ikegami Honmonji, officially known as Chōeizan Daihonzan Honmonji (長栄山大本山本門寺) is the head temple of the Nichiren sect in Ikegami, Ōta Ward, Tōkyō. The temple, simply called Ikegami Honmonji (池上本門寺) since ancient times, is one of the fourteen sacred temples of the Nichiren sect and revered as the place where Nichiren passed away.

Ikegami Honmonji (池上本門寺)

On 8 September 1282, the ailing Nichiren left Mount Minobu (in modern-day Yamanashi Prefecture) planning to recuperate at a hot spring in Hitachi (Ibaraki Prefecture). He arrived at the residence of Ikegami Munenaka (池上宗仲), a devout follower, in Ikegami-go, Musashi Province ten days later. He would spend the last 20-odd days of his life there. In the same month, Nichiren established a temple on a hill behind Munenaka's mansion and named it Chōeizan Honmonji (長栄山本門寺), which is said to be the origin of Ikegami Honmonji.

Ikegami Honmonji (池上本門寺)

When Nichiren died on 13 October 1282, Munenaka bestowed a large swathe of land to the temple and its abbot Nichirō (日朗), a disciple of Nichiren. The Ikegami clan's residence was located in a valley west of the temple, now the precincts of Daibō Hongyōji (大坊本行寺), a subsidiary temple of Honmonji. Daibō Hongyōji has its origins in the Jibutsudō (持仏堂, Lotus Hall) of the Ikegami residence constructed in 1276. Throughout the Kamakura and Muromachi periods, the Honmonji temple enjoyed the patronage of several Kantō samurai clans. It was later used as a family temple for daimyō such as Katō Kiyomasa (加藤 清正, 1562-1611) and the Kii Tokugawa.

Ikegami Honmonji (池上本門寺)

In the Edo Period (1603-1868), Honmonji came under the tutelage of Kuonji Temple (久遠寺), founded by Nichiren in 1281. The temple was destroyed by fire during the air raids of World War II, except for the pagoda, the Sanmon, the Kyōzō and Hōtō, but was rebuilt successively after the war.

Until the mid-20th century, the temple complex was still a reasonable distance from Tōkyō itself. The British writers Basil Hall Chamberlain and W. B. Mason noted as late as 1907 that the temple was brilliantly situated and, due to the beautiful woodworking, a good destination for excursions near Tōkyō. Nowadays, the temple has become part of Tōkyō's Ōta Ward. The so-called Oeshiki Festival is held annually on 13 October between Ikegami Station and the temple grounds because Nichiren's death attracts many visitors.

Ikegami Honmonji (池上本門寺)

The present Shōrō (鐘楼, belfry) was rebuilt in 1958. The old bell was donated in 1647 by Yorinin, daughter of Kato Kiyomasa and wife of Tokugawa Yorinobu (徳川頼宣, 1602-1671). It was damaged in World War II.

Niōmon Gate (仁王門)

Niōmon Gate (仁王門 Niōmon) is a double gate erected in front of the main hall. A former national treasure, the gate was destroyed in an air raid in 1945 and rebuilt in 1977.


The two statues of Niōmon were modelled on the former wrestler and politician Inoki Antonio by sculptor Entsubaku Katsuzo but were recently moved to the main hall for repairs. New Niō statues by the Buddhist sculptor Harada Yoshimi were installed in October 2001.


Shikyōnanjizaka is a flight of 96 stone stairs on the front approach to Ikegami Honmonji. According to legend, the stone steps were donated by Kato Kiyomasa. They are named after the 96 characters of the Myōhō Renge-kyō (Lotus Sutra) Hōtō Shōshi chant, and the name of the stairs is taken from the first letter of the chant.

Nitchōdō Hall (日朝堂)

Nitchōdō Hall (日朝堂) is dedicated to the 11the​ abbot of Kuonji Temple, Nitchō, who became blind at the age of 61 but later recovered his sight. It is said that prayers here heal eye diseases and bring academic success.

The Main Hall (大堂)

The Main Hall (大堂 Ōdō), also called 'ancestral hall', as it enshrines the 'ancestor' (Nichiren), was built by Kato Kiyomasa in 1606 but burnt down in 1619. In 1628, it was rebuilt to almost its original size, but in 1710, it burnt down again. It was rebuilt on a reduced scale with a donation of timber by the eighth shōgun, Tokugawa Yoshimune, in 1724. The third Main Hall was destroyed by fire in an air raid in April 1945, and a temporary ancestral hall and a pagoda were constructed in 1948. The present Main Hall was rebuilt in 1964. It is a reinforced concrete structure with a hip-and-gable roof (母屋造 moya-zukuri) and has a height of 27 metres. The painting on the ceiling is the "Unfinished Dragon" (未完の龍) by Kawabata Ryūshi (1966).

The Kyōzō (経蔵), the Sutra Hall, is one of the buildings that survived the air raid. The sutra wheel is a rotating octagonal bookshelf that contains the Tenkai versions of the Lotus Sutra. It was built in 1784 and moved to the present location on the north side of the original site after World War II.


The Five-Storey Pagoda (五重塔 Gojūnotō) is 31.8 metres high and one of the most precious structures to have survived the air raids. It was erected in 1608 at the behest of Shoshinin, the wet nurse of Tokugawa Hidetada, the second shōgun of the Edo shogunate, and was later moved to its current location. The entire surface is painted in red colour. The first and second storeys are roofed with tiles, while the third and higher storeys have copper shingle roofing (originally, all the roofing was done with brick). The first level is in Japanese architectural style, while all other levels are in Zen Buddhist-style. The first storey has a central doorway with a clerestory door in the middle. The two side rooms are decorated in the shape of a gozama (格狭間). Along the outer wall, there are carvings of the twelve signs of the Chinese zodiac. A type of moss called Hommonji Moss was found on the stone steps of the foundation.

Sanmon (山門)

Sanmon (山門)

Hōtō (宝塔), the Treasure Tower

Hōtō (宝塔), the Treasure Tower, is an Important National Cultural Property (国の重要文化財) that was erected in the west of the precincts of the temple, at the site where Nichiren was reportedly cremated. It was rebuilt in 1828 to commemorate the 550th anniversary of Nichiren's death, with the Naruse clan, lords of Inuyama Castle, and others as sponsors. The pagoda has the shape of a treasure tower with a cylindrical body and a treasure-shaped roof. The wooden body of the pagoda stands on a stone square base and a stone lotus-shaped pedestal. The pagoda is painted in red lacquer, and the hogata roof is made of copper shingles with tiled bars.



Utagawa Hiroshige: Eight Views of Edo, Ikegami Evening Bell (江戸近郊八景・池上晩鐘)

Address: 1-1-1 Ikegami, Ōta City, Tōkyō 146-8576; phone: 03-3752-2331.

Access: a 10-minute walk from Ikegami Station on Ikegami Line (via JR Kamata Station) or from Nishi-magome Station on Toei Asakusa Line.

Honmonji Reihōden Museum (池上本門寺 霊宝殿): currently only open on Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays; admission: 300 JPY.