Of all the temples for the Seven Gods of Fortune in Yanaka Choan-ji is the least conspicuous. I could not find it and asked an elderly lady, who told me that she had been living in the area for 76 years since she was born. This very friendly lady walked with me for a while to point me in the right direction, but advised me to ask the nearby dry-cleaner just to make sure. Fact is that the temple is not as impressive as most others. At the entrance you are greeted with a sign in English that says: "May Peace Prevail on Earth", a wish that does not feel so illusive when you walk around in tranquil Yanaka.
Choanji is dedicated to one of the Seven Gods of Fortune, Jurojin. However it also houses "Itabi". Itabi, also called the stone board stupa or blue stone stupa, were originally erected for the repose of the souls of the dead during the Kamakura and Muromachi Eras. There are three Itabi in Choan-ji that date back to these eras.
Cho-an-ji was established in 1669, but the Itabi are estimated to be at least 400 years older. It is believed that prior to Shingon-sect had a temple on the same spot and the Itabi are they only objects that remained.
Buried in the precincts of this tiny temple is the artist Hogai Kano (1828-1888). Hogai belonged to the Kano School (long-time court favorites) of artists and was one of the last painters of that line. He was picked by Okakura Tenshin to be the first teacher at the School of Fine Arts (predecessor to the Tokyo University of Arts). Sadly Hogai died before he could take up his position.
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