If you are craving for historical and religious destinations near Tokyo, Sho-gaku-san Sōji-ji or Soji-ji is a welcome respite. Soji-ji is a Buddhist temple built in 740 BC and considered to be the busiest and largest Buddhist institution in Japan.
The spacious temple grounds as well as numerous brilliant structures, you can easily see that it is a legitimate product of history. Fortunately, the temple survived a fire in 1898.
The temple is home to 200 monks and novices that start their routine as early as 3 in the morning. They go to Butsuden at 11 a.m. until 12 noon to read sutras for visitors or perform other services. They will have lunch for an hour, and then from 1pm to 3pm, they will go back to the visitors.
At the entrance of the temple, the Mountain Gate welcomes the weary visitor. This is also known as the Triple Gate, which represents emptiness and formlessness. The gate also serves as a gateway to enlightenment.
On the temple grounds, you can find seven structures known as Shichido Garan. The visitor’s center for workshops is called the Shanshokaku building, where it is equipped with modern amenities such as computers to fulfill the temple founder’s vow to aid all conscious beings.
Visitors from abroad are offered a chance to join a Zazen session or Zazen-kai. This opportunity is only open on a Saturday morning once a month if you grab a chance.
Also, if you want a guided tour around the Soji-ji Temple, it is available at 10:00 AM, 11:00 AM, 1:00 PM, 2:00 PM, and 3:00 PM. Guided tours require a fee per person.
Undoubtedly, this temple will feed your historical and religious travel urge, this destination is a “must try” for every traveler.