Located near Narita Airport, Naritasan Shinshoji is a large temple complex with a long history that is wheelchair accessible.
Naritasan Shinshoji is a large temple complex in Narita City, a short train ride from Narita Airport. A variety of temple buildings can be found on the sprawling grounds of Naritasan, as well as a park with both traditional Japanese and European elements.
In 940 CE, forces were dispatched from the Heian capital to put down a rebellion by Taira no Masakado, a powerful warrior. The Shingon priest Kancho accompanied the army, and brought an statue of the Buddhist Fudo Myoo deity from the Fire Offering Hall of Takao-san Jingo-ji in Kyoto that was said to have been carved by Kobo Daishi (Kukai), the founder of the Shingon Sect and one of the most important figures in Japan’s religious history.
According to legend, after the army’s victory, the statue became to heavy to take back to Kyoto and so a new temple, Shinshoji (New Victory Temple), was built to enshrine it on the spot. The temple remained small until the capital was moved to Edo (modern Day Tokyo). Tokugawa Ieyasu credited its abbot with converting him to Buddhism, and assigned the local daimyo to be responsible for the temple upkeep.
The temple became famous among the masses due to the performances of the influential kabuki actor Ichikawa Danjuro I who had family ties with the area. He credited the Fudo Myoo for the safe birth of his son, and wrote and starred in play specifically about the Fudo at Shinshoji. His popularity prompted many commoners to make pilgrimages to Naritasan from Edo.
In addition to the the temple complex, the road leading to the temple is lined with old buildings that house restaurants and gift shops that have served pilgrims for centuries.
The temple grounds are open 24hrs but elevators are only in operation from 5:00-17:00.
Naritasan is a 15 to 20 minute walk from JR Narita or Keisei Narita Stations. Both stations are accessible. A bus runs from the train stations to near the temple.
The first big challenge facing visitors is the street leading to the temple complex. While it a fun part of the experience, it is also very long and quite steep in some areas. There are a few benches to rest at during the first part of the road that is flat, but once the road starts heading down the hill, there are no places to rest other than stores. Taking the bus is a good option for those who might find the steep road a challenge.
Once at the temple, there is a flat entrance leading to the main stairs.
To the left of the stairs, there is a ramp heading to an elevator that leads into the main temple complex.
Once in the temple grounds, it is easy to move around on smooth surfaces. There are several levels to the complex and elevators are available to all of them.
While some of the buildings are historic sites and cannot be altered, most of the other buildings have ramps and elevators available.
The main temple has an elevator (on the left when facing the building).
It is possible to enter the main hall for prayers, but staff should be contacted so they can prepare a mat for the wheelchair space.
While there are no benches to rest on throughout the complex, there is a rest area near the main temple hall that has a ramp and chairs.
There is some tactile paving at the top of the first elevator into the complex, but none after that.
There are a number of accessible toilets at the temple, one at the Naritasan visitor center, and at the train stations.
Naritasan Shinshoji is a great way to spend some time in historic Japan if you are on a layover, have some time before your flight home, or even if you want a day trip away from busy Tokyo. The temple has put in a lot of time and effort to create an accessible environment and it is possible to enjoy the entire temple complex regardless of your abilities. Getting to the complex though can be a bit of a challenge do to the steep road. Taking the bus can be helpful for those unable to use the road. Also remember that the elevators are only operational from 5:00-17:00.
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