Japanese Shrines & Temples Tokugawa Shogun Graves Travel in Japan

Bunsho-in・the Grave of Tokugawa Ienobu

The second greatest funerary complex at Zojo-ji was Bunshoin, the mortuary temple of the 6th shogun, Tokugawa Ienobu.

Almost nothing remains of the site, but I hope to walk you through it today as best as I can.


(Divine Prince of Illumination)

6th Shōgun, Lord Tokugawa Ienobu

LOCATION: Zōjō-ji (Shiba Park)

The 6th shogun, Ienobu.

The shōgunate has established two bodaiji (funerary temples) at Zōjō-ji and Kan’ei-ji. In order of succession, they’ve enshrined the rulers; at Nikkō, at Zōjō-ji, at Nikkō, and then at Kan’ei-ji, and again at Kan’ei-ji. In my first article on Tokugawa Funerary Temples, I mentioned that interment in Edo alternated between Kan’ei-ji and Zōjō-ji. But so far, we’ve got only one enshrinement at Zōjō-ji and two consecutive enshrinements at Kan’ei-ji. So, now it’s time to balance the scales and so today we’re traveling back south down to Zōjō-ji on the occasion of the interment of the 6th shōgun, Tokugawa Ienobu.

It should be noted that as my research into these places goes on, I’ve been noticing some trends. The main thing is that the mortuary temples of Zōjō-ji are much better documented that those of Kan’ei-ji. I have some semi-educated guesses as to why this is. But if anyone knows something I don’t, I’d love to hear it.

In my article on Daitoku-in, I tried to provide as many photos of the non-extant structures as possible. If you compare those pictures with the surviving structures, you can get a sense of the original. If you look at the existing structures at Nikkō and imagine them dialed down a little bit, you really can start to imagine how the original looked and felt. After reading this article, again I encourage you to look at the pictures at Kan’ei-ji and notice the parallels and differences. It should help to imagine the original.

Because of group enshrinements[i], describing Ienobu’s Bunshōin in charts as I have done with previous shrines is a little difficult. Apparently it was a massive funerary complex, rivaling Hidetada’s Daitoku-in, only a little smaller. And like Daitoku-in, it was a major sightseeing spot in Tōkyō until its destruction in the Great Tōkyō Air Raid on March 10th 1945[ii].

Structures of Bunshō-in

Structure NameDescriptionConditionStatus
the main halldestroyed
ai no ma
in gongen-zukuri architecture, the structure that connects the honden and haiden.destroyed
the inner or private worship halldestroyed
a latticework fence that forms the border to a templedestroyed
The “middle gate” which usually opens from a court yard into the worship hall destroyed
portico on the left and right side of a shrinedestroyed
latticework fence that encloses a temple or shrinedestroyed
name means inner latticework fencedestroyed
name means outer latticework fencedestroyed
entrance to the oku no indestroyed
belfry, bell towerdestroyed
ido yakata 
roof over a well, or springdestroyed
imperial scroll gate; posthumous name of the deceased hand written by the emperor which marked the official entrance to the funerary templedestroyed
main gate, protected by two godsdestroyed
oku no in nami itabei
“wave fence” made of planks around the
inner sanctuary
oku no in haiden
worship hall within the inner sanctuarydestroyed
oku no in hōtō
A copper 2-story pagoda styled funerary urn that houses the remains of the deceasedfair conditionIn the Tokugawa Graveyard at Zōjō-ji
oku no in karamon
so-called Chinese style gate that provided entry and exit to the tomb of the deceaseddestroyed
oku no in nakamon
presumably the gate to another small fence around the hōtōextant and functional, but damagedNow the entrance to the Tokugawa Graveyard at Zōjō-ji
water basins for ritual purificationdestroyed
traditional stone lanterns37 are scattered about Zōjō-ji [iii]Some moved to various temples in Tōkyō’s Minato Ward
copper lanterns;
there were 138 copper lanterns at Bunshō-in
95 still existMoved to Fudō-ji in Tokorozawa

The list above roughly itemizes the main structures at Bunshō-in as they relate to the 6th shōgun, Tokugawa Ienobu. As mentioned before, other shōguns were enshrined here. The ridiculous amount of copper lanterns reflects total from all of the enshrinements. Only 95 exist today.

Maps of Zōjō-ji & Tokugawa Funerary Temples

Map from a 1937 English language travel guide.
At number 12, you can see Zojo-ji’s main temple.
On the left is Daitoku-in, in the center is Zojo-ji, the complex immediately on the right is Bunshoin, next to that are some of the other shoguns’ graves (but we haven’t gotten their yet).
Click to enlarge.
Another map of Zojo-ji.
In the middle you can see the main temple.
To the left of it, Daitoku-in.
To the immediate right is Bunsho-in and Yusho-in.
Click to enlarge.
Here’s a close up of the map above.
The main structures are labeled for her pleasure.

As you can see in the labeled map above, the layout of the 6th shōgun’s tomb and the 7th shōgun’s tomb is nearly identical up to the nakamon (middle gate). Because of this and because the similar design, I got a bit confused at what pictures I was looking at. Some other people have too, so some of the pictures I’ve come across online were mislabeled. I’m fairly certain, I have most of the pictures straight, but be aware, some of these might be from the 7th shōgun’s funerary temple — I’ll mention if I’m not sure.

Imperial Scroll Gate

Front view of the Imperial Scroll Gate.
Note the bell tower in the background.
View of the backside of the Imperial Scroll Gate.
Back of the Imperial Scroll Gate
Same shot, different cropping.
I’m pretty sure this is Bunshoin (Ienobu),
but it might be Yushoin (Ietsugu).
It’s hard to tell with the coloration and without being able to see the imperial scroll (plaque).

Bell Tower

After passing through the imperial scroll gate, there was a bell tower on the right hand side.
In the background you can see the nami itabei (“wave fence” made of wooden planks).

Oku no In – The Inner Sanctum

The water basin was required for ritual purification before entering the oku no in (the inner sanctum). To get to this area, you had to pass through the nakamon (middle gate) which brought you to fenced in 榔 rō area surrounding the haiden. The haiden was the building for worship.

The suibansha, or water basin.
You can see the zenro in the background.
That’s the fence connected to the nakamon which leads to the haiden (worship hall).
Nakamon (middle gate) which leads to the haiden (worship hall).
Same picture, different processing.
Inside the sayuro (the porticos on the left and right side of the zenro) surrounding the main hall.
A close up of the wooden carvings and paintings decorating the inside of the haiden.

Tamaya – The Graveyard

It took me forever to figure out wtf a shikirimon was in shrine/temple architecture.
It’s the gate that leads out of the oku no in to the next area which is the graveyard.
If you look through the gate, you can see a stairway.
This is a key feature of Bunshoin, the funerary urn itself was located at the top of the hill.
The stair way leads to the karamon (Chinese style gate).
Beyond the gate is the cemetery.
Same shot, different cropping.
After passing through the karamon, we come to another nakamon. This is a copper (bronze?) gate, typical of the type that surround the actual graveyard. And another stairway….
The gate still exists.
Not sure if they moved it, but my gut instinct says it’s in the same place as it originally was.
Today it is the entrance to the Tokugawa Cemetery, which houses the graves of the other shoguns enshrined at Zojo-ji.
My guess is that the area is original tamaya of Ienobu.
A view of the steps to the tamaya (cemetery).
You can see the wooden fence and the stone walls and stairway.
Today, only the gate exists.
Close up of the Tokugawa family crest on the former nakamon (tamaya gate).
The two metal panels on the left and right of the gate feature ascending and descending dragons respectively.
The bronze (copper?) has rusted so badly that you can hardly see the dragons unless you look for them.
This is a descending dragon.
2-story pagoda style funerary urn.
It’s nice that some of his stone lanterns are still there.
Here you can easily see that the grave is made of copper (bronze?) as opposed to the stone base.


Copper (bronze?) lanterns at Fudo-ji in Saitama.
Many lanterns were salvaged from the firebombed mausolea at Zojo-ji and moved to Fudo-ji.
I’m not sure which mausoleum these particular lanterns are from, but they are most definitely from Zojo-ji.
And, you know, a lantern is a lantern, basically…
A stone lantern clearly marked

Sadly, all that exists of Bunshō-in today are those lanterns scattered across Tōkyō and Saitama (seemingly at random) and the gate to the modern shōgun cemetery and Ienobu’s funerary urn. The Tokugawa Shōgun Cemetery was created after WWII to put all the 2-story pagoda style urns together in one place. As we continue this series, you’ll see that originally the graves were very much separate.


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[i] I’ve alluded to these group enshrinements before, but keep in mind that up to now, the shōgunate has been throwing mad cash at funerary temples. This will stop eventually.

[ii] By the way, what kind of assholes firebomb a major metropolitan city’s greatest works of art and private residences in the middle of March when it’s still cold as shit outside at night??? The longer I do this series, the more pissed off I get about the destruction of these treasures. It’s bad enough that the Meiji government tore down so many castles, but they left a lot of beautiful temples and shrines alone despite their connection to the Tokugawa – only to have the Americans indiscriminately bomb the fuck out of them, never to be rebuilt.

[iii] This website catalogs where all of Zōjō-ji’s stone lanterns are located now (Japanese only).


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