Situated in a leafy suburb about a 15-minute bus ride from Chofu Station, Jindai-ji and the surrounding area is something of a hidden tourist attraction in Tokyo. Indeed, it’s hard to believe that this quant village is but a short train ride away from the hubbub of Shibuya and central Tokyo.
Built in 733, Jindai-ji is in fact the oldest temple in Tokyo after Senso-ji in Asakusa. The temple’s name comes from the water god Jinja Daio to whom the father of the Jindai-ji’s founder is said to have prayed to be with the woman he loved—she had been confined to an island by her parents who disapproved of the union. Shortly after praying, the tale goes, a turtle appeared out of nowhere and transported him on its back to the island so that they could be together again. The parents, upon hearing of this miracle, reconsidered their stance and eventually gave their blessing to the couple, and the child which would be born would later build the temple in honor of Jinja Daio.
Today the Jindai-ji area is famous for soba. During the Edo period, the peasants and farmers living in the area were forced to grow buckwheat on the land because the soil was not suited to the cultivation of rice crops. The soba allegedly owes its subsequent popularity to the head priest of Kanei-ji Temple in Ueno (the head temple of the Tokugawa clan that was destroyed during the Meiji Restoration) who praised the quality of the soba when he came to visit Jindai-ji. In any case, today traditional soba restaurants line the lanes and roads leading up to the temple, and people travel from afar to enjoy the area’s famous cuisine and natural beauty. Other attractions include a botanical garden at the top of the hill and the gift shops which, of course, sell the soba for which the area is famous.
One of Tokyo’s most delightful day onsen, Yumori no Sato, is also a 10-minute walk from the temple. See edonoyu.com for more details.