Discover India in Japan : Saraswati idol at JR Koenji Azuma Dori

Financial transactions are one to one. 100 yen money for 100 yen worth of goods and services. Exchange (give and take) 100 dollars with your friend and both of you have 100 dollars. Exchange an idea with your friend and both of you have two ideas. Knowledge doubles. In the Hindu mythology is a term called “Saraswati-dan” , loosely translated as “exchange of information” and represented by Saraswati, the goddesses of knowledge, music, arts, wisdom and learning.

Bumping into Indian gods in Japan is not that rare given the cultural export of Buddhism from India. To recognize these gods in their Japanese forms is sometimes difficult at the first glance. One of the idea which has less influence and hence easily recognizable, was the one we bumped into at JR Koenji Station while casually strolling through a shopping street called Azuma Dori Shoten-gai. Needs no introduction, just look at the snap and you will realize that this is Saraswati, or Benzaiten as she is called in Japan, the goddesses clearly recognizable from the instrument which she holds in her hand.
Benzaiten, Saraswati at the JR Koenji Azuma Dori Shoten-gaiBenzaiten is one of Japan’s most popular deities, invoked for ample rain and bountiful harvests. She is the only female represented in  Japan’s wealth-bringing Seven Gods of Good Fortune. In the Indian culture Saraswati is goddess of  knowledge, music, arts, wisdom and learning. The name Saraswati comes from the root word “Saras” or “flow” of water. Human thoughts are like water, can flow and should be channelized for understanding, knowledge leading to wisdom and finally happiness in life. The Benzaiten called as Nyuri Benten was erected to share the diety spirit of the Enoshima Shrine Benzaiten in 2009. Relatively new….
Benzaiten at Azuma Dori Shoten-GaiThe Benzaiten will bring customers to your business, more money for your trade and service and also more happiness to you is what is written on the board. Not only that it will also be lucky for artists or so…
BenzaitenThe instrument she holds, the lower lip colored in red and the overall presentation of the idol is just so beautiful and infectious personality that Benzaiten is. Pity that Azuma Dori did not plan to build a better and bigger place of worship. The idol is a small one and on the side of the road and you can clearly miss it if you were to walk by casually or deep in your smartphone
BenzaitenEven the Torii, the gate like structure in front of the idol, is so small that she looks like a caged princess than a deity guarded behind a gate.
BenzaitenThis post is not to introduce you to go visit this place since it is a small place and not much significant a landmark. We believe that if you are around in Koenji area, visiting place likes the Nichiren Myohouji Temple in the neighborhood, it will be great to just take a brief walk to have a look.
We are thankful to Sakai san from the Japanese blog  Concent 高円寺, which has the fusion of the old and the new. Awesome ain’t it? Sakai san also has an interesting take written in Japanese on why Koenji is called the Indian side of Japan.


  1. Meenal


    Saraswati and in Japan? Never knew this cultural aspect. Thanks for the introduction.
    – Meenal

    • Reply

      Thanks Meenal, I have not replied to comments for a long time and discovered this late. Hope you get to visit the Koenji area some time. Its an awesome location with so many India deities around in a Japanese context!

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