Tokyo is not the first place one who think of when it comes to shrines and temples, especially central Tokyo. But I have uncovered some beautiful holy places right in the middle of bustling Tokyo!
The red torii gate tunnel in Hie Shrine (日枝神社) in Akasaka may not be as grand as that of Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto, but it is a great place for a photo op as there are lesser crowds in the shrine than the famous Fushimi Inari Taisha, especially if you go on a weekday.
What is a torii? Torii (鳥居) is a traditional gate found at the entrance of or within a Shinto shrine, marking the transition from the worldly to the divine.
And an interesting thing about this shrine is that it embraces modern technology. It is the first shrine that I have seen that has an escalator leading up to the entrance of the shrine. Shiny and sleek, the escalator is an incongruous contrast against the ancient shrine.
Hie Shrine is apparently renowned for its traditional Shinto weddings, and there happened to be a wedding on the day we went, so I got to witness a Shinto wedding photoshoot for the first time in my own eyes.
Also, I spotted some adorable kids taking photos in their kimono for shichi-go-san (literally “seven-five-three”), which is a traditional rite of passage for young boys of ages 3 and 5 and girls of ages 3 and 7 held to celebrate their growth and welling. While shichi-go-san is actually held in November, perhaps because of Hie Shrine’s popularity for shichi-go-san as well, these children are completing their rites way earlier. I felt very fortunate to be able to see the Japanese in their traditional wear in a sacred place. When I look at them, I just really wish that we have more of such traditional customs in Singapore.
We had to search about for the picturesque torii gates though, they were tucked away at a corner in the left behind the main shrine.
While it may not be a top tourist spot, the torii gates are a lovely sight, so if you happen to be in Akasaka, and you’ve been wanting to visit the Fushimi Inari Taisha and haven’t got the chance to go, or you just simply miss walking under the sacred red gates, Hie Shrine is actually a pretty good alternative, albeit tinier in scale and amount.
Gotokuji Temple (豪徳寺) is another beautiful place to visit especially for cat lovers. Probably even non-cat lovers will find themselves unable to resist the charm of Maneki-neko (Beckoning cat). Located in Setagaya Ward, Gotokokuji Temple is the birthplace of Maneki-neko. There are over hundreds of these waving cat figurines of various sizes in the temple, which are actually tokens of gratitude left by visitors who wishes have been granted.
And notice that all the Maneki-neko here are raising their right paws. A raised right paw is said to beckon money while a raised left paw is said to beckon people. So all these Maneki-neko in Gotokuji Temple have granted wishes for people looking for wealth. If you wish for prosperity and abundance, you will know where to head to!
Also in Setagaya, Setagaya Hachiman Shrine (世田谷八幡宮) has beautiful, serene grounds, lush greenery and even flapping ducks and swimming turtles in its pond. One particular part of the shrine is especially beautiful, a little red bridge leading to a tiny shrine right over a lovely pond and bubbling waterfall worshipping the Bentaizen, the goddess of everything which flows, from water to music.
And now is my unabashed link to my latest article in this Japan travel website for couples, Japanfor2, entitled Setagaya Tram Date. Do read it to find out more of other attractions at the Setagaya Ward, which is very near Shibuya! And give it a like (click on the tiny yellow heart at the top left of the article) if you enjoyed the article, THANK YOU! And a small tidbit for those of you who don’t know, Setagaya Tram is one of the two remaining trams in Tokyo, and also has one absolutely adorable Maneki-neko themed tram complete with Maneki-neko hanging straps and paw-printed floors!
- Address: 2 Chome-10-5 Nagatacho, Chiyoda, Tokyo
- Getting there: 5 minutes walk from Tameike-sanno Station (Ginza Line or Namboku Line) or Akasaka-mitsuke Station (Ginza Line or Marunouchi Line).
- Admission: Free
- Address: 2-24-7 Gotokuji, Setagaya 154-0021, Tokyo
- Getting there: 10-minute-walk from Gotokuji station (Odakyu Line) or at about a 5-minute-walk from Miyanosaka station (Tokyu Setagaya Line).
- Admission: Free
Setagaya Hachiman Shrine
- Address: 1 Chome-26-3 Miyasaka, Setagaya, Tokyo
- Getting there: 5-minute-walk from Miyanosaka station (Tokyu Setagaya Line).
- Admission: Free