- Alicia Joy
The shrines and temples of Tokyo attract thousands of visitors from both Japan and abroad each year. While many have been rebuilt since their founding due to fire, earthquakes or war, they still retain their splendor and are very much a part of life in Japan. Here are six shrines and temples in Tokyo you don’t want to miss when visiting.
Kanda Shrine | Shinto Shrine
The iconic red Kanda Shrine has played an important role in Tokyo Shinto worship since the Edo Period. The shrine is ideally situated in downtown Chiyoda-ku and the kami (god spirits) enshrined here include two of the Seven Gods of Fortune, making this the ideal place to make your prayers for wealth and success in business. Interestingly, due to its proximity to Akihabara, Kanda Shrine has also become popular with the tech crowd, who purchase charms to ward off damages to their electronics. The Kanda Shrine is also known as Kanda Myojin.
📍 2-16-2, Soto-Kanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 101-0021
Zōjō-ji | Buddhist Temple
San’en-zan Zōjō-ji is an important temple to Jōdo Buddhists. During the Tokugawa Shogunate, it was the burial site of six former shoguns, and today you can find those graves in the Taitoku-in Mausoleum or in the cemetery out back. Two are designated Important Cultural Properties of Japan. Zōjō-ji is also home to the Garden of Unborn Children. Here, parents can choose a statue in the garden to decorate in order to say goodbye and aid their child’s path to the afterlife. While much of the temple’s original property has been reclaimed by business and surrounding enterprises, it still retains much of its former glory and is worth a visit when in Tokyo.
📍 4-7-35 Shibakōen, Minato-ku, Tokyo 105-0011
Nogi Shrine | Shinto Shrine
In 1912, General Nogi Maresuke and his wife Shizuko committed ritual suicide in this spot after learning about the death of Emperor Meiji. The two are now enshrined here, and the General is worshiped for his honor and nobility. Having been designed in the twentieth century and rebuilt after World War II, Nogi Shrine reminds us that not all shrines and not all kami must be centuries old in order to be worthy of worship. The couples’ residence is also on the premises.
📍 8-11-27 Akazaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-0052
Sensō-ji | Buddhist Temple
Sensō-ji is Tokyo’s oldest temple. Located in the historic Asakusa neighborhood, it is directly beside the famous Asakusa Shrine, and is the most visited temple in the city, with visitors from both Japan and abroad. The path to the temple is lined with stalls, small shops and vendors selling traditional wares and snacks, and the area is a popular place for tourists to dress up in kimono and wander around. Sensō-ji’s grounds are also home to Chingo-dō, the Tanuki Temple. Tanuki are Japanese raccoon dogs and are thought to bring good luck and protect businesses and homes from fire and theft. You can access the Tanuki Temple via a separate entrance on Dembō-in-dōri.
📍 2-3-1 Asakusa, Taitō-ku, Tokyo 111-0032
Yasukuni Shrine | Shinto Shrine
The Imperial Shrine of Yasukuni honors the souls of those who lost their lives in war while fighting for Japan. Unfortunately, the shrine-come-war memorial has become a source of controversy, especially among neighboring Asian countries, since many of those enshrined and honored here are listed as Class-A war criminals. Justin Bieber was forced to apologize to Chinese fans after posting a picture of himself visiting the controversial memorial. Despite this, Yasukuni Shrine plays host to multiple religious and festival occasions throughout the year, including an annual spring festival and Mitama Festival, where visitors come to pray to their lost relatives and friends.
📍 3-1-1 Kudankita, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 102-8246
Benzaiten Shrine | Shinto Shrine
Nestled among the lush greenery and landscaped water features of Inokashira Park lies the Benzaiten Shrine, a small red Shinto shrine devoted to the goddess of the same name. She is the deity of everything that flows – including knowledge, water and music. Benzaiten is recognized in both the Buddhist and Shinto faith, and was adapted from the Hindu goddess known as Saraswati. Inokashira also plays host to the famous Ghibli Museum.
📍 1-18-31 Inokashira, Mitaka-ku, Tokyo 181-0001