10 Best Shrines and Temples to Visit in Tokyo

kanda myojin shrine Places to visit in Tokyo
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Misty Fujii is a Canadian who moved to Osaka, Japan, in 2019 and married her Japanese sweetheart. In 2022, they had a baby and moved to Fukui for the clean country air. She is a DJ who teaches English part-time and writes to share Japan with the world. She gets excited about collecting vintage vinyl records, food from all countries, travelling, and renovating her traditional Japanese house.

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Mixing modernity and tradition is what Japan does best, especially in Tokyo. Skyscrapers and bright lights are often juxtaposed with classic shrines and temples. A visit to a shrine or temple can be a peaceful refuge from the life of the busy city, so take a deep breath and slow down while taking in rich history and spirituality. With so many temples and shrines, here are ten of the best you can visit during your stay in Tokyo.

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1. Senso-ji Temple

Sensoji Asakusa

With so many temples, where do we begin? Let’s start with Senso-ji, the oldest temple in Tokyo, at over 1300 years old. Dedicated to Kannon, the goddess of compassion, this temple welcomes 30 million visitors annually, making it the most visited spiritual site in the entire world! It sits in the heart of bustling Asakusa, with a 200-meter shopping street between the temple’s outer and second gates. This large temple consists of a five-story pagoda, halls, gates for worship, and a garden regarded as a National Scenic Beauty Site. Take part in festivals and events like the large Sanja Matsuri in May. You can also stop at Asakusa Shrine next door when you visit the temple. 

2. Meiji Jingu Shrine

meiji jingu shrine

It’s hard to imagine a shrine nestled in a forest right in the heart of Tokyo, but that’s precisely what Meiji Jingu Shrine is. Close to Harajuku Station and Yoyogi Park, it’s easy to forget you’re in the middle of one of the world’s biggest cities when you find yourself among the lush greenery and vast shrine grounds. The shrine was built and dedicated to the late Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken in 1920, who are regarded as deities here. Today, this is one of Tokyo’s most visited shrines, and it is a perfect, sacred place to find some tranquility. 

In and around the shrine, you don’t want to miss the wall of iconic sake barrels, and there are over 200 of them as an offering to Emperor Meiji, a lover of wine. You’ll also find a couple of camphor trees tied with a sacred rope, representing the love the Emperor and Empress had for each other. Now, many people come to this spot hoping to find luck in love for themselves. There is also Kiyomasa’s Well in the garden for good luck, and history buffs can learn more about the shrine at the Meiji Jingu Museum. 

3. Yasukuni-jinja Shrine

Yasukuni-Jinja Shrine

Founded in 1869 to enshrine those who died for Japan in the war, Yasukuni-jinja is a Shinto shrine in the Chiyoda ward by Kudanshita Station. Yasukuni means peaceful country, and it honors those who sacrificed their lives to help build a peaceful Japan. The spirits of 2.5 million people and animals are commemorated here through written records of their names, origins, dates, and places of death. Beside the shrine is a museum that highlights Japanese wars from a conservative perspective. It is well worth visiting as it is a fascinating and beautiful place. In the spring, stunning cherry blossoms fill the grounds attracting many visitors. 

4. Zenkoku-ji Temple

In the Kagurazaka neighborhood of Shinjuku lies a temple dedicated to the Hindu god, Bishamonten. Worshipped in Japan as the God of Wealth, people come here to pray for good luck and prosperous business. The temple draws visitors with its bright red gate, tiger statues, and the statue of Bishamonten. It’s also known as the first temple in Tokyo to have nighttime stalls open during its festivals, and the Kagurazaka Festival held every July is exciting and bustling. You may also notice that many of the wooden ema plaques with dedications to the J-pop idol group Arashi. One of the group’s members filmed a movie here in 2007, and it’s been an unofficial fan location ever since. The temple is a short walk from Iidabashi Station and is definitely worth visiting. 

5. Zojo-ji Temple

Zojo-ji Temple
Magalie L’Abbé, (CC BY-NC 2.0), via flickr

You can’t miss the temple standing right next to Tokyo Tower! As the head temple of Jodo Buddhism in the Kanto region, anyone who enters the main gate is cleansed of three worldly afflictions, greed, anger, and ignorance. While most buildings were rebuilt, this main entrance gate is from 1622 and has withheld many wars, earthquakes, and fires. Inside the temple complex, you’ll find the tombs of six shogun inside the Tokugawa Mausoleum and Museum and a Treasure Gallery featuring works by the famous scroll painter Kano Kazunobu. This is the perfect temple to visit for an iconic image of Tokyo and has been the subject of many renowned ukiyo-e wood prints by Utagawa Hiroshige. 

6. Kanda Myojin Shrine

Home to one of Tokyo’s biggest festivals, the Kanda Myojin Shrine is the place to pray for prosperity, good luck, and marriage. This nearly 1300-year-old shrine is significant in the Kanda/Ochanomizu area. While it’s been rebuilt several times, it is one of the only buildings that survived the WWII bombings. Tokyo’s oldest and most powerful shrine demonstrates tradition with technology, thanks to its proximity to the high-tech area of Akihabara. You can also pray for and receive charms and blessings for electronics which is undoubtedly vital for many people. You don’t want to miss a visit to this shrine, accessible by Akihabara and Ochanomizu Stations. 

7. Nezu Shrine

Guilhem Vellut, (CC BY 2.0), via flickr

This gem of a shrine ticks all the boxes. Off the beaten path? Check. Ancient? Check. Beautiful? Check. Located close to Ueno Park, right by Nezu Station, this shrine is often overlooked. Still, it is a perfect place to experience zen right in the heart of Tokyo. It is one of the oldest shrines and, unlike most, still has many of its original buildings intact. You could compare it to Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari Shrine with the iconic red torii gates. So much beauty lies within the stunning hillside garden, vibrant with azalea flowers.

8. Sengakuji Temple

Sengakuji Temple

There is a large piece of history in this temple near Shinagawa Station. The temple’s famous graveyard is where the ‘47 Ronin’ are buried. Many plays, movies, and books have been written about these samurai who fiercely avenged their lord’s death in 1702. It’s a fascinating story, and even more so to be able to pay respects to the samurai for their ultimate loyalty. The temple is also home to a zen school belonging to the Soto zen sect of Buddhism and is considered a prestigious institution in this field. If you want to learn more about the samurai and their history, museums on both sides of the temple are well worth visiting. 

9. Hie Shrine

Hie Shrine

One of the major shrines in Tokyo, Hie Shrine, can be found near Tameikesannō Station, between Akasaka and Nagatacho. Situated on a tree-covered hill, the shrine offers a relaxing refuge from the busy city and tall skyscrapers surrounding it. One of the highlights here is the tunnel of 90 red torii gates that you can pass through as one of the three entrances to get to the shrine. Once you arrive at the main shrine, you may be greeted with cherry blossoms or beautiful wisteria flowers, depending on the season. You’ll also meet the statues of monkey deities, which protect the shrine and keep evil away. The shrine is also the main starting point for one of the three great festivals, the Sanno Matsuri, which happens in June. 

10. Tomioka Hachiman Shrine

If you want to pray where the samurai did, you won’t want to miss a visit to the largest Hachimangu shrine in Tokyo. Dedicated to Yawata no Kami, the god of battle, this Edo-period shrine will bring you back to that time as you immerse yourself in the culture here. Some of the notable things you’ll find during your visit is a statue of Inou Tadataka, the first person to walk through all of Japan and map it – his map was so precise that it is very close to the current maps of Japan that we use today. In addition to the main shrine, you’ll find a lovely garden and pond with a picturesque red bridge, red torii gates, and seventeen small shrines dedicated to the Gods of Comedy, Sewing, Business, Travel, Sumo wrestling, and more. The shrine is located in Koto City, Tokyo, near Monzen-Nakacho Station. It is best visited during one of the many weekly markets or festivals. 

 Feel the daily faith of ordinary people /Fukagawa   

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