Though peaceful, this Benzaiten temple comes with a legend that’s far from serene. Supposedly, the goddess has a rather jealous side and unleashes her spite at any lovestruck couples who pass by.
The serene temple stands atop an island within a lake within a large park in the west of Tokyo. Because Benzaiten is a goddess of water, equivalent to Saraswati of the Hindu pantheon, her shrine tends to be built on a waterfront. The statue of Benzaiten housed in this temple depicts a beautiful goddess with eight arms. It’s a hibutsu (“hidden Buddha”) that’s shown to the public only once in 12 years, in the Year of the Snake.
And though beautiful, this goddess has a rather sinister urban legend attached to her. Couples are warned to avoid the park because going there (and riding a swan boat together) will cause Benzaiten to get jealous and curse the couple, causing them to break up. This legend has been around for decades and is widely known to people even outside Tokyo.
Despite this ominous legend, you can see many couples around the temple every day. The park might be too beautiful to miss just for a rumor, especially in spring when cherry blossoms fringe the lake. The park also offers other attractions like swan boats, a small zoo, and the ever-popular Ghibli Museum.
Know Before You Go
It's one minute on foot from Inokashira Kouen Station and five minutes on foot from JR Kichijoji Station. It takes 15 minutes from Shibuya to Kichijoji via Keio Inokashira Line express service. The park is open all day and entry is free, but the boat ride and the zoo are charged separately. The temple is open from 7:00 to 4:30.