There are many architecturally brilliant buildings all over Japan, ranging from old to modern structures. One of such is the Reiyukai Shakaden (霊友会釈迦殿) temple located in central Tokyo (東京) in proximity to the Tokyo Tower (東京タワー). It is a modern temple built in the shape of a sci-fi starship with a striking black exterior. It is the center of Shakyamuni Buddhism, the original form of Buddhism prescribed in the ancient scriptures.
The center opened to the public in the year 1975. However, the founding organization, Reiyukai, was started in the year 1930 by Kakutaro Kubo (久保角太郎) and Kimi Kotani (小谷喜美) to venerate the teachings of the Shakyamuni Buddha (仏陀), who was the first Buddha. Since then, almost 5.14 million people from all around the world have become members of this organization. It is considered a modern sect of Buddhism thanks to its unique teachings.
The word ‘Shakaden’ means abode of Shakyamuni. Gautama Buddha (ゴータマ・ブッダ), the founder of Buddhism, is also known as Shakyamuni. The word ‘Shaka’ comes from the name of the Indian clan Buddha was from. The Reiyukai movement started to bring people closer to the teachings of the first Buddha. Their aim is to venerate his philosophy and to bring peace to the world.
Unlike other temples, Shakaden does not have a priest system. The ideals of Reiyukai come from the Lotus Sutra (法華経), the ancient Buddhist scripture that is said to have been the basis of many East Asian Buddhist sects such as Mahayana (大乗) and Nichiren (日蓮). The Reiyukai has contributed to many relief and humanitarian works in different regions of the Asia-Pacific. Its Eurasian unit is also a part of the UN special consultative NGO group. The Reiyukai Shakaden temple in Tokyo also offers Japanese lessons for foreigners without asking for a single yen in return.
The exteriors of the Reiyukai Shakaden temple resemble a starship from Star Trek (スタートレック). This unusual design makes the temple unrecognisable as a temple at first glance. Although the building looks a bit eerie from the outside, it is very welcoming inside with friendly staff. The interior is spectacular with a giant eight-meter Buddha made of camphor wood sitting in the main hall. The temple also houses conference rooms, a plaza, a cafeteria and much more.
Social gatherings are conducted frequently with local members actively participating in the Reiyukai movement. The social service done by the temple is worth mentioning too. It has a huge reservoir full of fresh water to help people in need in the case of an emergency or natural disasters.
The Reiyukai has opened up a line of new sects with many people starting up their own philosophical movements. This includes the Rissho Kosei Kai (立正佼成会), whose headquarters is also in Tokyo. The Reiyukai movement has another branch in the Amagi mountain range (天城連山) called the Mirokusan (弥勒山). This is dedicated to the future Buddha, Miroku a.k.a Maitreya (弥勒菩薩) in Sanskrit, whose birth is highly anticipated and believed to happen when the world is completely void of Dharma and peace.
Do pay a visit to the Reiyukai Shakaden temple when you are in Minato-ku (港区), central Tokyo. If you’re popping up Tokyo Tower beforehand, you can get a good view of the temple from up there. Furthermore, if you’re interested in the free Japanese lessons or would like to get involved in some cultural activities, this temple is definitely worth a visit.