Templo Seicho-No-Ie, Brasília’s Hidden Japanese Temple

The main façade of Templo Seicho-No-Ie

photography by: Omri Westmark

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Home to over 100 million adherents of Catholicism, Brazil is by far the world’s largest Catholic nation. Despite its overwhelming majority of Christians, the country is far more religiously diverse than first meets the eye. While most of you probably never heard of it, Seicho-no-Ie is a new religious faith inspired by both Shintoism and Christianity. Among the 1.6 million devotees of Seicho-no-Ie, a couple of hundreds or so live in Brasília, where a surprisingly authentic temple serves as their place of worship and a cultural center for outside visitors alike.

When in 1929, Masaharu Taniguchi, a Japanese English translator, purportedly experienced a godlike epiphany that led to his daughter being cured from a fatal ailment, he became steeped in divine inspiration. A year later, Taniguchi published a series of articles known as the “Seichō no Ie” Magazine, where he delved into his spiritual insights of the world.


In the following years, Taniguchi’s magazine evolved into a full-fledged religion that fuses together elements from Christianity, Shintoism and Buddhism. At its core, the Seichō no Ie faith revolves around three main principles. First, the idea that God has created a harmonious world where nature and people coexist. Secondly, the assertion that reality as perceived by humans is inherently distinct. And thirdly, the belief that all religions share a common universal God, while all of their differences are simply the result of geographic and cultural context.


In an attempt to spread his ideas, Taniguchi opted to travel to dozens of countries, where he personally lectured about the religion, subsequently gathering more and more followers. In 1963, he visited the newly established capital of Brazil, Brasília, home to an ample Japanese community of almost 5,000 people. After meeting with several of his local adherents, Taniguchi gave a green light to construct a local Seichō no Ie center in the Brazilian capital.


It took no less than 13 years to fulfil Taniguchi’s vision, when in 1976, the local Seichō no Ie Temple was inaugurated in SQS 404, one of Brasília’s superblocks located in the south wing of the Pilot Plan. As the building is deeply inspired by traditional Japanese architecture, it might look like a typical Shinto temple for the untrained eye. Nevertheless, the structure, like most of the city, is entirely made of concrete.


Besides serving as a community center for the throngs of believers across town, the temple is also open for outside visitors (Tuesday to Sunday, 8:00-11:00). In fact, every Sunday from 8:30, the center hosts a free meditation course while the rest of the day is allocated for all sorts of activities, including lectures and teachings, just to name a few.