TOKYO – TEMPLES, SHRINES AND WHERE TO FIND THEM 2020.08.13
Small shrines are hidden in narrow streets, barely noticeable, but the aura can be felt. It is like being drawn to them, no matter where they are, you’ll find them. The feeling of having some space of greenery won’t be far at all in general, but to combine it with the roots of history, inner peace and happiness is a different mixture in your mind and soul. Shrines and Temples are places to meet spirits, finding some rest and to take a break of the busy life that is always surrounding us.
In the following you will see a small list of Temples and Shrines I have been in Tokyo. I didn’t take photos of them as much as I usually do. Deeply sorry for that.
Don’t be afraid to ask how you can cleanse yourself with water out of a small well or to pray for a good fortune. Always be respectful and you’ll get respect and kindness in return.
Sensoji Temple and Hozoman Gate can be found in the same corner. It is a large area with a long street which is directly pointing to the gate and the Temple. It is really easy to find. Only get out of the train station Asakusa which has the same name as the district and go up the street through a nicely decorated red torii which means gate. The street is full of small stores that are selling traditional Japanese objects, food and are perfect for some sightseeing souvenirs. A good thing about this area is that it’s quite cheap for accommodation and a nice spot to meet people. Restaurants and small pubs can be found everywhere and it makes it really easy to eat every day something different. In the evening the small streets open and just enjoy an icy cold pint next to you home-made Okonomiyaki.
And for some more action, lucky you that the Skytree is nearby as well. Just cross the river to the West and you are almost there.
Is not as old you may think. Several times it was rebuilt due to war and basic renovations. Back in the 1850s Tokyo wasn’t the capital city of Japan and therefore the emperor was living in Kyoto until he decided to move his family to Tokeí, now Tokyo, and switched the importance of both cities.
The palace can be visited during the day from 9am to 5pm. Some parts are of course strictly prohibited, since the emperor of today is living there. The best time to pay a visit, and walk through the halls like the Japanese aristocrats of the past did, would be in the morning shortly the doors were opened. Around 3pm it is often packed and you can’t enjoy it as much as you could.
The shrine is located in Shibuya next to the busy station of Harajuku, and is dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken. It was opened in the 1920 and is since the 100th anniversary is coming closer some parts of the shrine are closed due to restoration works. It is a nice place to relax and to escape a for a while the busy life of Tokyo. The shrine is surrounded by a tranquil forest of 100000 planted trees which were donated back then from different parts of the country to honour Emperor Meiji and Empress Shōken. People all over the world who are visiting the shrine can take part in Shinto activities like buying charms, make an offering or writing a wish on an ema which are wooden plates that are specifically made for wishes such as good grades, good health, love or even wealth.
Just get out Sengakuji or Shinagawa Station. It is a Sōtō Zen Buddhist temple and is located in Takanawa of Minato-Ku. You must know that it is specially known for the graveyard of the til then very famous and popular 47 Ronin or the Masterless Samurai. There have been books and movies about them. The newest is from 2013 and Keanu Reeves in the main role. Every year on December 14th a cemerony which is called Ako Gishisai Festival is being held to pay respect and to honour the 47 Samurai. Next to it there is a museum with artefacts of the Ronin and videos which can be watched in Japanese, Chinese and English.
Established in 1705, it is one of the oldest places in Tokyo to worship and feel spirituality. A lot of people say it is for sure one of the most beautiful, but yet underrated shrines that you actually can visit in Tokyo. And I have to agree. It is full of flowers, lots of green, a lake, a path which is covered in the typical reddish or vermilion torii that usually can be found in Kyoto of the Fushimi Inari Temple, that you should not miss as well. It is a small piece of heaven and a very nice place to spend some time in summer when it’s too hot wherever you go. Nezu station or Sendagi station, such as Todaimae station are just 5 minutes walk away. It opens from 9am to 5pm and the entry is free.
Founded in 1274 and near Nippori Station and is surrounded by the old Yanaka Cemetery that once belonged to the temple. But due to a policy after some modernization of the Meiji Restoration it was said, that there has to be a separation of the “native” Shinto and “imported” Buddhism. Until then the Yanaka Cemetery was a public place and allowed for tourist to visit. Something more positive on the other side are the “Yanaka Seven Gods of Fortune”. However, only one statue is located in Yanaka and the others can be visited while following the pilgrimage route. Togakuji Temple (Fukurokuju), Shounji Temple (Ebisu), Shushoin Temple (Hoteison), Tennoji Temple (Bishamonten), Choanji Temple (Jurojin), Gokokuin Temple (Daikokuten) and Shinobazunoike Bentendo (Benzaiten).
I actually didn’t do this adventure in particular yet, but while I was researching I found the story about “Yanaka Seven Gods of Fortune” and I’ll do that the next time for sure.
YUSHIMA SEIDO TEMPLE
Established as a Confucian Temple in the Genroku era of the Edo period and is close to the train station Ochanomizu of the Yushima neighbourhood.
It has its importance to educate the modern Japanese life while it’s roots are coming from Chinese history and culture. Confucianism which was imported from the mainland China to Japan is about the improvability of people through endeavour and a significantly influenced the thinking, attitudes and morals of the Japanese.
Yushima Seido was built by the neo-Confucian scholar and tutor to the first four shoguns, and his name was Hayashi Razan.
Standing next to the Tokyo Tower it has to be one of the most visited temples in at least Tokyo itself. And not being enough it is the head temple of the Jodo sect of Japanese Buddhism in the Kanto Region. You heard right, Kanto. In case your ears are ringing now and you don’t know why, it’s easy. For all of those who grew up with one of the most famous animated TV series Pokémon, there is no wonder why people feel familiar with the word.
The Kanto region was basically the first that we were able to explore in the Pokémon world.
Originally the temple’s location is not the one that we know now. In 1598, it was moved to its current place, but was built somewhere else in 1393. Tokugawa Ieyasu was the shogun who decided to make this temple to his family temple and was later buried there. Time passed and the family tomb was built on the back side of the temple and is the resting place of 6 tombs in total of the Tokugawa shogun.
Founded by the Emperor Meiji in 1869 for his commemorates who died in war during their service of Japan from the Boshin War of 1868 to 1869 to the First Indochina War of 1946 to 1954. From back to now over 2.5 million people are enshrined at Yasukuni with their names and the date and place where they have died for their country to build a foundation of a peaceful country.
Hundreds of cherry trees are surrounding the area where the shrine stands and it has to be beautiful while being there during cherry blossom. In fact, it is this very place which is having Tokyo’s representative cherry tree to officially pronounce the beginning of the blossoms in the city. Maybe it is a bit strange to have something like that, but spring and specially cherry blossom is an important and magical time for the Japanese during the year. The shrine is located near the Kudanshita Station on the Hanzomon, Tozai and Shinjuku Subway Lines.
KANDA MYOJIN SHRINE
No one really can tell how the shrine really is, but it has to be over 1000 years. Due to several earthquakes it had to be rebuilt many times. The Kanda district is not called as a typical touristy place, and is a more local area which has been known for academics. A lot of universities can be found a therefore many young people are daily on the streets to get there.
Usually people go there to pray for prosperity.
The Kanda Myojin Shrine is home of the three deities: Ebisu – the god of fishermen and businessmen, Daikokuten – the god of good harvest and matrimony, the last is Taira Masakado – a feudal lord of the 10th century. That’s why it should not be strange that one of the three most famous festivals of Tokyo is held right there, Kanda Matsuri. The date is mid of May and it’s all about the celebration for wealth and good fortune of the people.
SUSANOO JINJA SHRINE
It is a small temple near Minami Senju Station and easy to get there. Just to tell you right away, it is not a super fancy temple, park or shrine. But still beautiful and sort of cute in the middle of a calm neighbourhood. One day just wandering around. It has been cloudy and bit rainy during the day. Everything was nice and green and it smelt like trees, flowers and freshly cut grass after a rainstorm. Between the trees I saw a stone gate and lanterns that surely look beautiful during the sunset.
Everything looked nice and old. Dark wood and light lanterns with Japanese symbols on it. A perfect match of dark green dressing the trees that are surrounding the area, was just a nice contrast to bright coloured temples that I have seen before. And, it is impressive that even though Tokyo is such a big city, that there are small corners that are meant to bring you down to earth, relax and calm your mind.
While looking up all the locations for the temples and shrines and where you can find them with google, strangely the Susanoo-Jinja Shrine didn’t show up. But you should see the sign when you get out the Minami Senju Station.
That's all for today. But in case you like to see more of beautiful Japan and places that you can go to for a vacation or day trip, check out the link down below.
Besides, I have a YouTube Channel which is currently all about me living in Japan. Weekly Vlogs and "How does it work? Living in Japan"
Would love it to see you there as well. ;)
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Mata Ne! ♥
I am Sina Sofie and love writing.
A while ago I built my own website which is all about travelling to different countries, how to do it, where to go, tips and tricks, what's important of planing your next trip and in general a lot about Japan.
Next to it, I enjoy writing and taking videos of my life as foreigner in the land of the rising sun to inspire others to come to visit this beautiful country.
I am originally coming from Germany, but lived for a couple of years in Ireland, before I decided to hop on the next plane to begin a new adventure.
Speaking and writing in English feels just as natural as German and I can't wait to know enough Japanese to talk to you.