Are you interested in shrines and temples? One of the purposes to come to Japan is probably to visit these religious buildings and learn more about shrines and temple. Shrines are native religious places of Japan. It is for Shinto religion and each shrine is enshrines their own god. The most famous and easily recognizable characteristic of a shrine is that there is Torii gate as the entrance to the shrine. The inside of the gate is sacred area, so you need to take a bow in front of the gate.
Other characteristics are that some celebrations such as a wedding are held in Shrine. On the other hand, temples are Buddhism religion and usually training place for Monks. They enshrine statue of Buddha. The characteristics of temple is that there are graves and also a funeral is held in temple.
Most of Japanese basically believe both and that’s why we worship at both shrines and temples. Here are some of the best shrines and temples in Kanto area.
1. Kashima-jingu Shrine
Kashima-jingu shrine is located at Kashima city in Ibaraki prefecture. It is headquarters of all Kashima shrines in Japan. Before 1000 years ago, Kashima-jingu shrine was given status as “Jingu” which is name for a Shinto shrine connected to the Imperial House of Japan with Ise Grand Shrine (Ise-jingu) and Katori shrine(Katori-jingu). With Katori Shrine, Kashima shrine protects eastern part of Kanto area. Also famous for strong good fortune. On the premises, you can feel natures and find about 30 deers which are seen as the messengers of god
2. Meiji Shrine
The Meiji Jingu Shrine is sacred and the most visited Shinto shrine in Tokyo. It is dedicated to the emperor Meiji and empress Shoken. The emperor Meiji played an important role to modernize the country during the transition period. When you walk through the forested grounds with 170,000 trees donated from all over Japan, you can feel the Japanese spirit.
There are some large Torii-gates marking the entrance to the sacred world of the Shinto gods. You can see good view of Torii-gate with trees at several places in the park.
3. Katori Shrine
Katori-jingu shrine is located at Katori city in Chiba prefecture.It is headquarters of all Katori shrines(it is about 400 shrines) in Japan. It has deep relations between Kashima shrine. As said above, it was given status as “Jingu” in Heian period which is about 1000 years ago. Only 3 shrines (Ise shrine, Kashima shrine, Katori shrine )had “Jingu” status before Meiji era(about 150 years ago). In Katori-jingu shrine, you can feel lots of greenery while walking the approach to the shrine.
5. Mitsumine Shrine
Mistumine shrine is located at Chichibu city in western part of Saitama prefecture. It is located at the summit of Mount Mitsumine (1100m) and has a good atmosphere. It is known as a sacred place and lots of tourists visit to pray for good fortune even it takes about 180 min to reach the shrine from central Tokyo. It also used to be sacred training place. Because it is located in mountain, you can see variety of nature view such as snow in winter and autumn leaves in fall in Mitsumine shrine.
6. Sensoji Temple
Sensoji temple is oldest temple, founded in 628, known for its iconic big lantern, probably you have seen the picture of it? It was donated by the Japanese company Panasonic. Sensoji is well known as one of the temple that lots of worshipers visit in first shrine visit of new year, known as hatsumode. The temple ground is always crowded with both Japanese and non-Japanese tourists, but if you visit at night or early morning you might find yourself alone with the shrine. Try to get your fortune by buying an Omikuji (fortune telling paper) for ¥100.
7. Nikko Toshogu Shrine
Nikko Toshogu shrine is located in Nikko in Tochigi prefecture. This temple was found in 1617 and enshrines Tokugawa Ieyasu. Yomeimon gate is known as a beautiful gate in Japan and there are about 500 sculptures on the gate. You can also spot the three wise monkeys sculptures in Nikko Toshogu that signify “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”. Try to spot the monkeys!
Nikko is a little bit far from Tokyo but it is worth visiting there. You can see some national treasures and hike some great trails. Nikko is especially popular in autumn!
8. Chichibu Shrine
Chichibu shrine is located at Chichibu city in Saitama prefecture. It passed 2100 years, really old shrine. And in 1592, Tokugawa Ieyasu instructed to found the building which enshrine sacred object for protecting Chichibu.
Even though it is located in city central, it is really quiet and good place to escape from the busy city. Same as Nikko Toshogu shrine, you can see some of beautiful sculptures, such as tigers, dragons and owls. In Chichibu shrine, there are also sculptures of three monkeys. Chichibu’s three monkeys is opposite of Nikko three monkeys, it represents “See it all, listen intently, speak your mind.”
9. Kotokuin Temple
Kotokuin temple is well known for The Great Buddha called Kamakura Daibutsu. It is the second tallest Buddha in Japan, and a lot of tourist visit the Daibutsu. Kotokuin temple is located in Kamakura, one of the famous tourism spots in the Kanto area. It was built in 1252 with the Buddha statue originally standing in the temple hall. But because of some disasters, like earthquakes, it was destroyed few times and now Buddha is standing outside.
10. Hakone Shrine
Hakone shrine is located at shores of Ashi lake in Hakone which is one of the famous tourism place. People worshiped the Hokone Montain, and they believe that some gods descend on the mountain. In 757, Hokone shrine was founded to enshrine these gods.
This place is surrounded by lots of nature and greenery, and you can feel sacred atmospheres. Besides, as said above, Asi lake is in front of Hakone shrine, and there is Torii gate (gateway to the sacred place) between shrine and lake, you can see good view from the lake.
11. Tsurugaoka Hachimangu
Tsuruoka Hachimangu is at central part of the Kamakura city, that means close to the Kamakura station. It is well known shinto shrine. In new year, here is the one of the most busy places for new year’s visit in Kanto area. To reach to the main shrine, you should walk up to 61 steps of stone stairway. You can see great view of red gate in front of main shrine with stone stairways.
This shrine has deep relation with Minamoto no Yoritomo who was founder and first shogun of Kamakura shogunate. In the Japanese history, he is really famous and Kamakura was important place. Therefore, there are some places you can see vestiges of history, of course Tsuruoka Hachimangu is one of the places.
In Kanto area, there are more shrines and temples, of course, all of them have unique aspects and history, that’s why the other are also good place to go. Above 10 places are famous and especially have unique atmospheres.
Below articles will help you if you make the itinerary in Japan!
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