Shrines are holy or sacred places that house – enshrine – one or more deities – gods or kami. It is estimated that there are about 80,000 shrines located throughout Japan, of which approximately 1,450 are to be found in Tokyo. And Tokyo’s Shinto shrines make for great sightseeing spots.
The Japanese visit shrines to pay respect to the Shinto gods or to pray for good fortune. There are different type of shrines that house different gods and consequently are visited for different reasons. Shrines are also visited during special events such as New Year, setsubun, shichigosan and other (Japanese) festivals. It is also custom that new borns are brought to a shrine within a few weeks after birth, and many couples hold their wedding ceremonies there.
Tokyo Jissha – 東京十社
Tokyo Jissha refers to ten shrines in Tokyo metropolitan area. They belong to the 12 shrines that we were selected by the emperor after the Meiji restoration to bring about property and continued growth of the capital city. They are not the only shrines, or the most beautiful of Tokyo. Some people also say the shrines were chosen because of their strategic location. Together they form a barrier of protection of inner Tokyo area.
Many people make a pilgrimage and try visiting the 10 different shrines, carrying a stamp book – goshuincho – and collect stamps – goshuin – at each shrine to commemorate the journey. You can try to tackle all shrines in a day, it is not that hard because the shrines are good accessible by public transportation. But it won’t leave you much time for sightseeing, we recommend you take your time and plan spread out the visits over a few days and explore the area around the shrines too. These are the ten shrines of the Tokyo Jissha:
1. Nezu Shrine – 根津神社
This shrine is one of Japan’s oldest shrines, its’ construction dates back to the early 1700s, and is marked as an ‘Important Cultural Property’. The shrine is very famous for its Rhododendron Festival, with around 50 varieties blooming from late April to May. The shrine is also known as the shrine of Soseki Natsume, a famous novelist, and Ogai Mori, a famous author and doctor in the Meiji era.
5 minute walk from Nezu Station Todai-mae Station.
2. Kanda Shrine – 神田明神
In this shrine general Masakado Taira, who lived about a thousand years ago, is honoured. The Kanda shrine is dedicated to two gods of luck: Daikokuten and Ebisu, gods of commerce, prosperity and wealth. For this reason many businesspeople go here, especially on the start of the new year for Hatsumode. It is also a popular spot for anime fans because of the scene of a popular anime “Love Live”.
5-10 min walk from Ochanomizu Station and Akihabara station
3. Kameido Shrine – 亀戸天神社
Because this shrine is dedicated to Michizane Sugawara, a god of study, many student come here to ask for good luck in their (entrance) exams. During spring season this is also a beautiful spot to watch the wisteria and cherry blossom in their full colours.
10 min walk from Kinshicho Station or Kameido Station.
4. Ouji Shrine – 王子神社
This shrine is popular amongst newly-weds and pregnant woman, because it is said to bring good luck, scare away evil spirits and will help you raise your child. The 600-year-old big ginkgo tree prominent visible, is one of the Tokyo designated cultural property.
3 minute walk from Oji Station.
5. Hie Shrine – 日枝神社
This is a popular spot for ceremonies such as weddings, miyamairi and shichi-go-san also the starting point for one of the three biggest festivals in Japan; Sanno festival. People visit this shrine to live a happy married life, well-being of kids and easy childbirth.
5 minute walk from Akasaka Station.
6. Tomioka Hachiman Shrine – 富岡八幡宮
Considered to be the birthplace of sumo, this shrines hosts ceremonies whenever a sumo wrestler achieves the rank of highest rank of yokozuna. It is also famous for the biggest mikoshi (portable shrine) in Japan. In the summer, this shrine holds one of the 3 biggest summer festivals in Tokyo.
3 minute walk from Monzen-Nakamachi St.
7. Shiba-daijingū Shrine – 芝大神宮
This shrine is also known as Tokyo no Oisesama (Ise Grand Shrine) and the deities that work to connect all living creatures are enshrined here. Many visit to ask for prosperous relations, both personal as well as business. The shrine is located in a business district, so many workers visit here to ask for success in business. When time permits we recommend you also visit the nearby Zojoji temple.
2 minute walk from Daimon Station
8. Hakusan Shrine – 白山神社
This small family run shrine is famous for its Ajisai (hydrangea) Festival in June. It enshrines Kikurihime Okami, the match-making deity.
2 minute walk from Hakusan Station.
9. Shinagawa Shrine – 品川神社
Looking for luck? Visit Shinagawa Shrine, the home of Daikokuten, one of the deiteis of good luck. The shrine has many unique features such as a climbable 15 meter-tall fujizuka, a mound imitating Mount Fuji. Back in the days fujizuka were made for people who did not have the means or the physical condition to climb Mount Fuji. It is also said when you wash your money here, you will receive 10 times the amount.
2 minute walk from Shim-Baba Station.
10. Akasaka Hikawa Shrine – 赤坂氷川神社
This shrine is said to bring romance to you, providing peace and prosperity in your home, successful business relations and finding your match. To prove its good fortune; this shrines has survived earthquakes and air raids or WOII. Being located in the heart of Roppongi, you will be surprised. This shrine is truly a haven of peace.
5 min walk from Roppongi Station.
How about going on a small pilgrimage and visit these 10 shrines when you are in Tokyo and collecting your stamps? It is a great way to see more of Tokyo other than the main tourist spots and learn more about the shrines. How about giving it a shot if you have plenty of time in Tokyo?
When you are interested in learning more about the Japanese culture or Shintoism, we recommend you it the trail with a local guide. We happily develop a customised day-trip for you, to make most out of your visit to Tokyo. Find our more about the private tour options!