I really had no other plans in Tokyo except to make it as a transit point for Kyoto, my main destination in my first trip in Japan. But I stayed for two nights to see some interesting architecture by Japanese architects who are Pritzker Architecture Prize winners.
I left the capsule hotel and wandered aimlessly in the direction of Ueno Park which was just a stone’s throw from where I stayed for the night. The day was hot and humid and it was already past 10 am when I wandered out. Even with a map at hand, I just walked around until I saw a small temple farther away.
The Bentendon Hall temple used to be a small island in the pond built in the 17th century by Mizunoya Katsutaka, a daimyo (feudal lord). Access was said to be difficult that in the later part of that century, a bridge was built to connect the island and the temple to devotees.
Since then, it was popular with devotees who ask for favors to Benzaiten, goddess of wisdom, art and knowledge, to whom the temple is dedicated, and is particularly called upon for success in examinations and for good fortune. During World War II, the three century old temple was destroyed and the current structure was built in 1958.
This was my introduction to a Japanese temple. Like most Buddhist/shinto shrines and temples, a chozuya stands a few meters before the main entrance. It is a sheltered spot where water flows freely and with the wooden handled ladles, devotees perform the water ablution, a purification rite called temizu. Devotees then lite joss sticks just before the steps leading to the temple.
But I didn’t go up. I just went around the temple grounds and looked around. There were interesting stelae, upright stones with inscriptions carved directly on the surface. There were buddhist statues and sculptures of musical instruments. At the back, the pagoda overlooking the pond where lilies and high rise buildings form a contrasting backdrop.
Despite the humidity, it was windy under the trees. But as I was about to go, I couldn’t help but try the tempting streetfood along the bridge leading to the temple. I stopped at one stall, ordered a fishcake like food that when given to me was topped with nori and some sweetish sauce. It was crisp and delicious and the pangs of thirst quenched with soda.
GETTING THERE: Bentendon Hall temple is just beside the Ueno Kensei Station.
This trip was made possible by Philippine Airlines who provided the Manila-Tokyo/Osaka-Manila plane tickets. Check their website Philippine Airlines for tickets and promos. Like their Facebook page and follow them in Twitter.