If you truly want to experience the real Japan, then you cannot miss out on its temples and shrines that have garnered worldwide attention. These buildings keep intact the socio-cultural legacy and religious sentiments of the Japanese and embody a strong sense of calm and virtue. Japanese shrines and temples stand as a sharp contrast to highly developed cities of Japan and thus, we strongly recommend you include a couple of shrines in your itinerary.
We have picked up shrines and temples in one of the most expensive and highly developed cities in the world, Tokyo. Amid the towering skyscrapers and systematic urbanization, you will come across beautifully preserved and ubiquitously respected shrines which will totally make you love the city more.
So, without further ado, here are 8 shrines in Tokyo you should definitely check out:
1. Kanda Shrine also called the Kanda Myojin
Everyone in Japan knows about the stunning Kanda Shrine. This remarkable red-colored Kanda Shrine holds great historical relevance, as it became a central place of Shinto worship in Tokyo during the Edo period.
The shrine is located in the downtown Chiyoda-ku, and here among the many kami (Japanese term for “God spirits”), the two kami of the Seven Gods of Fortune is most popular. It is considered as a place to worship for success and wealth in business.
Quite intriguingly, the shrine has become a famous spot for the tech crowd due to its geographical closeness to the Otaku and gaming hub, Akihabara. Here at shrines, you will notice the tech crowd purchase talismans to ward off spirits which may potentially damage their electronics.
2. Nogi Shrine
The shrine enshrines within itself not so old kami¸ but its popularity is at par with any other major shrine in the city. In order to understand why we emphasized on the age of kami, you will need a quick history lesson.
We must go back in time, as far as in the year 1912. The famed General NogiMaresuke and his better-half, Shizuko, committed suicide on the spot where the shrine stands now upon learning about the demise of Emperor Meiji. Ever since then, the General has become a venerated personality elevated to the stature of a kami.
The Nogi Shrine was designed in the 20th century and was reconstructed following World War II. One more thing: the residence of the couple was also situated in this spot.
To Jodo Buddhists, San’en-zanZojo-ji is a very important site for worship. During the reign of the Tokugawa Shogunate, the temple served as the burial site of former shoguns whose graves can now be found in the Taitoku-in Mausoleum or the cemetery situated on the backside.
Zojo-ji is, incidentally, home to, what is known as, the Garden of Unborn Children where parents can select a statute in the garden for decoration in order to say farewell and pray for their child in the afterlife.
Much of the original property of the temple has been occupied by businesses; it, nevertheless, retains effectively its distinctiveness and pride and is among the most visited religious sites in Japan.
4. Yasukuni Shrine
Charting on number four is another Shinto shrine, Yasukuni Shrine. The Imperial Shrine of Yasakunivenerates the souls of those people who died in war for Japan, but it has, unfortunately, become a subject of heated debate, particularly among nearby Asian countries.
The controversy is over many people revered at the shrine who were actually listed as war criminals. The hue and cry over this shrine are so massive that Justin Bieber had to apologize to his Chinese fans for uploading a picture of himself visiting the memorial.
Keeping aside the controversy, the shrine still pays a monumental role in many festive occasions such as the Mitama festival when visitors pray for their lost friends and relatives.
The oldest temple in Tokyo is Senso-ji which is situated in the Asakusa neighborhood just adjacent to the popular Asakusa Shrine. It is currently the most visited temple in Tokyo, with native and foreign visitors thronging to experience the charm of this old Buddhist temple.
The road to the temple is marked by small shops, stalls, and kiosks selling snacks and conventional accessories. It is a popular place for Japanese people all dressed up in their finest Kimonos and hanging out with their family and friends.
The temple is home to the Tanuki Temple known as Chingo-do. If you did not know already, Tanuki are essentially Japanese raccoon dogs regarded as harbingers of good luck and protective charm against the destruction of homes from theft or fire. You can visit the Tanuki temple through a segregate entrance situated on Dembo-in-Dori.
6. Benzaiten Shrine
Featuring a beautiful landscape, Benzaiten Shrine is one of the most remarkable shrines place to visit in Tokyo. Located in the Inokahsira Park, this small Shinto shrine is dedicated to a namesake Goddess who was known for her knowledge and music. She is venerated in both the Shinto and the Buddhist faith and was adapted from Saraswati, a Hindu Goddess.
To all anime fans out there, the shrine hosts the popular Ghibli Museum—so if your religious sentiments do not tickle much, your fandom will surely do.
7. Meiji Shrine
Dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his spouse, Empress Shoken, the shrine is most famous for hosting traditional Japanese weddings. It is surrounded by more than 100,000 trees from the Yoyogi Park and a number of walkways through which the visitors can sightsee the sylvan beauty and other famous areas such as Omotesando, Harajuku, and Aoyama.
8. Nezu Shrine
Nezu shrine is known for its association with the Imperial family of Japan. One of its notable features is that there are many Torri archways making tunnel-like pathways all over the premises. Here you will be bombarded with beautiful spring pinks, purples and whites in the month of April, giving the entire shrine a picturesque appearance.
The Nezu Shrine has a rich history of 2,000 years, and thus, you must not miss out on this one.