Highlight: Nitenmon Gate at Sensoji Temple

Nitenmon Gate at Sensoji Temple (Taito, Tokyo) Highlights
Nitenmon Gate at Sensoji Temple (Taito, Tokyo)

Tokyo Shitamachi Guide’s “Highlights” category covers must-visit spots in Tokyo’s Shitamachi area (the area along and east of the Sumida River). We select an interesting spot each time for your sightseeing in Tokyo.

This time, our recommended spot is Nitenmon Gate at Sensoji Temple in Taito Ward.

Nitenmon Gate is Sensoji Temple’s east gate. Compared to Kaminarimon Gate and Hozomon Gate, you may think Nitenmon Gate is nothing special, as it’s much smaller than the other two gates. But this gate also has an impressive history.

In the precincts of Sensoji Temple, there once was a Shinto shrine called Toshosha Shrine. This shrine was dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate in the 17th century.

This blog post will share information about Nitenmon Gate at Sensoji Temple. Please use it as a reference when you visit Tokyo’s Shitamachi area, especially the Asakusa area, for sightseeing.

We hope this blog post will help you somewhat when you visit Tokyo for sightseeing. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us through the contact form.

This blog post is also available in Japanese. You can refer to it at the following link:


According to Sensoji Temple, the history of Nitenmon Gate dates back to the 17th century.

Sensoji Temple was a Kiganji (prayer temple) for Tokugawa Ieyasu. Tokugawa Ieyasu was the founder and first shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate in the 17th century. In this case, Kiganji is a temple where the Tokugawa Shogunate prayed for long-lasting fortunes in war and the prosperity of the family.

In 1616, Tokugawa Ieyasu passed away. In 1618, Sensoji Temple built Toshosha Shrine in its precincts to enshrine Tokugawa Ieyasu.

In 1618, Sensoji Temple built a gate for Toshosha Shrine. This gate housed the shrine’s guardian gods. At that time, this gate was called Yadaijinmon Gate, not Nitenmon Gate.

At that time, Yadaijinmon Gate enshrined Toyoiwamado-no-Mikoto and Kushiiwamado-no-Mikoto. These two deities are the gatekeepers of the shrine where Amaterasu, the Goddess of the Sun, lives.

Toshosha Shrine was destroyed by fire twice, in 1631 and 1642. After that, the Tokugawa Shogunate didn’t allow Sensoji Temple to rebuild the shrine in the precincts of the temple. The shogunate built Toshogu Shrine in Ueno.

Nearby Ueno Toshogu Shrine took over the responsibilities of Toshosha Shrine at Sensoji Temple. Ueno Toshogu Shrine is a Shinto shrine dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu, built in 1627.

In 1868, the Meiji government issued the Shinbutsu Bunri policy. This policy clearly distinguishes between Shintoism and Buddhism, Shinto deities and Buddhist deities, and Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples.

Sensoji Temple is a Buddhist temple. Toyoiwamado-no-Mikoto and Kushiiwamado-no-Mikoto are Shinto deities. The Shinto Bunri policy didn’t allow Sensoji Temple to enshrine these two deities at Nitenmon Gate.

For this reason, Sensoji Temple offered the statues of these two deities to Asakusa Shrine in 1884. Sensoji Temple, instead, enshrined the statues of Komokuten and Jikokuten at Nitenmon Gate. Both Komokuten and Jikokuten are the guardians of the Buddhist world.

The statues of Komokuten and Jikokuten at Nitenmon Gate originally belonged to Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture. Sensoji Temple and Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine have deep connections.

For example, Sensoji Temple keeps the Buddhist sutras named “Genban Issai Kyo” at Hozomon Gate. Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine originally owned these sutras until 1871.

For more details about Hozomon Gate, please refer to the following blog post:

In 1884, Sensoji Temple changed the official name of this gate from Yadaijinmon Gate to Nitenmon Gate when the temple enshrined Komokuten and Jikokuten.

In 1945, World War II destroyed the statues of Komokuten and Jikokuten at Nitenmon Gate. In 1957, Sensoji Temple replaced them with the statues of Jikokuten and Zochoten.

These two statues were in the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ietsuna at Kan’eiji Temple in Ueno. Tokugawa Ietsuna was the fourth shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Kan’eiji Temple is the family temple of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Of the 15 Tokugawa Shoguns, six sleep here.

In 1946, Nitenmon Gate was designated as an “Important Cultural Property (Building)” of the country.


Jokokuten and Zochoten

Currently, Nitenmon Gate enshrines statues of Jikokuten and Zochoten. Both are guardians of Buddhism who live in Tenbu of the Buddhist world.

According to Buddhism, it categorizes Buddhist deities into four classes: Nyorai, Bosatsu, Myoo, and Tenbu. Tenbu is the fourth class from the top. Deities who have converted to Buddhism from other religions live in Tenbu.

The major role of the deities who live in Tenbu is to protect the Buddhist deities, Buddhism (Buddha’s teachings), and the Buddhist world. In addition, they also bring people various divine benefits.

Jikokuten and Zochoten are known as very aggressive deities called the Four Heavenly Kings of Tenbu. In general, the Four Heavenly Kings refer to the following deities:

  • Jikokuten guards the east of the Buddhist world;
  • Komokuten guards the west of the Buddhist world;
  • Zochoten guards the south of the Buddhist world;
  • Tamonten guards the north of the Buddhist world.

Tamonten is also known as Bishamonten. For reference, the Seven Lucky Gods also live in Tenbu.

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