As the Japanese name suggests, both Tokei-ji and Mantoku-ji were temple sanctuaries for women seeking divorce. A princess named Sen played a major role in making these temples an authorized institution for wives to break off conjugal relationships with their husbands. Princess Sen was the granddaughter of Ieyasu Tokugawa, the top dog at the time. She was married to Hideyori Toyotomi, who died after the Toyotomi family lost battles against Tokugawa family (1615). Her husband had a daughter with his concubine, who was then sentenced to death. Princess Sen adopted this young princess and saved her life. Later, she made the Tokei-ji an authorized enkiridera-temple by pleading her step great-grandfather, Ieyasu Tokugawa. Princess Sen was said to have entered into Mantoku-ji to get a divorce and marry again.
Mantoku-ji was decommissioned in 1872 but was preserved by local residents. In 1956, part of the temple premises became a designated ruin by the Gunma prefectural government. Thanks to the local residents, the principal image and other treasures still remain intact to this day. A collection of historical records has also been kept at the archives attached to Mantoku-ji. When you visit Mantoku-ji, here is something you shouldn't miss. There are two flush toilets next to each other on the premises. One is called Enkiri Kawaya (a toilet to break off your relationship) and the other is Enmusubi Kawaya (a matchmaking toilet). Not to worry; they are not real bathrooms. You write on a piece of paper either something or someone who you want to break off your relationship with or something or someone who you want to create a relationship with and flush the paper down on one of the toilets with no doors.
Why not visit this unique temple and give a thought to the wives who lived in the feudal age but had a chance to get out of an unhappy marriage?
Archives of Mantoku-ji
Where: 385-1 Tokugawa-cho, Ota
Hours: 9:30a.m.-5:00p.m. (Doors close at 4:30p.m.)
Admissions: JPY200 for adults Free admission for Jr. High School pupils and younger
For a group of 20 people or more: JPY160 per person
Closed on Mondays, Tuesday if Monday falls of a national holiday, Dec. 29-Jan. 3
(Please call to confirm before your visit as there may be unscheduled holidays in the spring and fall.)