Shrines and Temples, Tokyo
Our wanderings in the side streets off Nakamise Dori led us here, to this tranquil tucked-away shrine devoted to the deity Otanuki-sama (tanuki means raccoon-dog). This deity is thought to protect people and their homes from disasters such as fire and theft and is also, according to a sign I saw here, a god of “the art of public entertainment”. The origin of this small shrine goes back to the second half of the 19th century when, another sign at the site says, a steward and a priest at Senso-ji were concerned about the damage being done there by these racoon dogs. They built a shrine to Otanuki-sama to invoke his help in deterring them – a shrine that was later moved to this nearby spot.
Also here is this statue of Mizuko Jizo, the Buddhist monk guardian of aborted and prematurely dead children. Mizuko Jizō is often depicted as a staff-welding monk with children in his arms or, as here, under his robe. The unfortunate parents of these children make offerings to the deity (in the ritual of mizuko kuyō) to enlist his help in helping the children escape hell, since they are considered not to have had the chance to lead the moral life that would have ensured good karma.
From here you can look through a fence to the neighbouring Demboin Garden which was designed in the 17th century by Enshu Kobori, a tea-ceremony master and famous landscape gardener. Unfortunately though you can’t go in for a proper look as it isn’t open to the public.
By now it was late enough to check into our hotel and we were weary enough to need a rest, so we headed back there to relax for a while before dinner which we had at Futuwama
The shrine is on Denboin Dori, west of Nakamise Dori
Tokudaiji Temple is not a famous temple, nor is it especially unique, but it is a great example of the way Japanese culture blends religion and daily life. This temple is squeezed into the middle of Ameyoko Market, and it would be invisible behind the shops except for the steps leading from the street, the smell of burning incense, and the occasional religious music.
The temple is dedicated to a Buddhist diety named Marishiten, an Indian goddess. In existence for some 600 years, the Tokudaiji Temple and its patron saint were embraced by the Samurai. The god is also known to facilitate good business and bring prosperity, so the location in the middle of a busy market is ideal.
At Tokudaiji Temple, as at other temples, worshipers can purchase a wooden block fro 500 Yen, then write wishes or prayers upon it, in hopes that they’ll come true.
Here is a video I shot at Tokudaiji Temple during a visit in November 2012 (http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/vv/69e9/).
Gotokuji temple, a Soto-sect zen temple in Setagaya-ku, is best known by the legend of Manekineko better known as "lucky cats" or "beckoning cats". It was originally built in 1480 in a part of Setagaya castle ruled by Kira clan. After the temple got ruined after the castle was abandoned during early 17th century Ii Naomasa, the lord of Hikone Castle and had governed former Kira clan areas, decided to rebuilt the temple buildings and expanded the temple premises to the large part of former Setagaya castle. The popular legends say that Naomasa Ii was beckoned into the temple by the cat when the thundershower was about to strike the Naosuke Ii and his men. Nearly hit by the lightening and enjoyed talking with the head priest of the temple, Naomasa decided to rebuilt the temple as the place for their family grave. Since then Gotokuji cat has been revered as the deity of bringing luck. The cat figurines production may have started around mid 19th century when having a cat figurine as a lucky charm became popular among yukaku dancers. Current manekineko figurines are produced in Seto, Aichi, the second largest producing area of Manekineko cats.
When I visited the temple, there are a lot of photographers for autumn leaves and for three-storied pagoda built in 2006.
Also see Setagaya Travel Page
Don't get this confused with the Daibutsu (Big Buddha) in Kamakura, Kanagawa. The Tokyo Daibutsu is rather unknown, even to my Japanese friends! It's a few metres shorter than its Kamakura cousin and it's been painted black. The gardens are quaint and quiet and best of all it's free!!
Take the local train on the Tobu-Tojo line from Ikebukuro station to Narimasu station. Take the bus that stops at Tokyo-Daibutsu-dori (you have to ask the bus driver). Walk about 3-5 minutes along Tokyo-Daibutsu-dori (avenue) and you'll see the gates on your left side.
Not far from the Roppongi Hills complex, we stumbled upon Sakura Jinja, a tiny shrine. It was indeed beautiful (like so many shrines, it seemed to shut out the noise of the city and confer an instant tranquility on those venturing down the paths), but deserted; possibly the shrine maidens were having lunch.
The shrine seemed aptly named, because there was a profusion of blooming cherry trees lining the walks. In the gentle rain, blossoms had begun to fall and in places the ground was a carpet of pink. For the first time, I saw the trees being used as repositories of the fortunes which one can purchase (or one could, if anyone was around from whom to buy). They looked quite beautiful like that.
The first time I visited General Nogi's shrine on Gaien Higashi Dori, I was paying more attention to the just-starting-to-bloom cherry trees and the beautifully constructed home and stables -- and to the wedding that began shortly after our arrival. But as it was directly on the route where I walked twice a day, I began stopping to savor my coffee in the little park, and thus I finally encountered the shrine cat. Or, more accurately, on a rainy day I suddenly noticed that there WAS a shrine cat, and that someone was making certain that it was fed, watered and properly sheltered. Why don't you visit and see if you can spot its home? Maybe you will get lucky and actually see Mr. Puss.
Every flower gets its own festival in Japan, and the plum blossom comes first, blooming in late February. I headed down to Yushima Tenjin, in the Ueno area of Tokyo, a shinto shrine dedicated to a 9th century scholar named Sugawara Michizone. Here, over 100 trees were in full bloom, acrobats were performing and vendors were selling delicious-smelling street food. I even got to taste some plum sake. Yum! The place was crowded, but I was the only westerner around. Almost everyone had a camera, so this is not a place to be shy about taking pictures!
...To get here, just get off the Yushima station on the Choyoda Line.
....The famous 47 ronin are buried at Sengakuji Temple, and their graves are still visited by Japanese today, 300 years after their ritual suicides (seppaku). This shouldn't be surprising, since almost every native of Japan grows up hearing their story, idealized as the epitome of samarai ethics and honor.
....For those unfamiliar with the story, it starts when the shogun appointed Asano Takuminokami as protocol officer to handle the powerless but meddlesome emperor's delegations from Kyoto. But, apparently, Asano couldn't get along with his boss, Kira Kozukenusuke, who treated him in a way unbecoming to a samarai. This is well before EEO offices would have handled his complaints about a hostile environment, so Asano took matters into his own hands ans one day in 1701, fed up with all the insults, he drew his sword on Kira and cut him on the forehead and in the shoulder, but failed to kill him.
....According to the strict laws of the shogunate, drawing one's sword within the confines of Edo was a capital offense, but this was also mitigated by another law mandating equal punishment for quarrels. However, the latter law seemed not to be applied: while Kira received no punishment, Asano was given a humiliating death sentence usually reserved for common felons: seppaku in the garden of another lord's residence. Additionally, the Asano estate was confiscated, his family line was stripped of its noble status, and his 47 samarai retainers (ronin) essentially excommunicated, jobless, masterless and socially ostracized.
....In the Edo times, vengeance for such a perceived wrong was expected, and Kira was wary. But the 47 ronin seemed so disheartened as to be incapable of fulfilling this requirement. The 47 ronin all descended into drunken debauchery, becoming regulars at the worst bars and brothels in town. However, unbeknownst to Kira, that was part of the plan to lull him into complacency -- all the women and wine were just a clever plan by the former chief retainer, Oishi Kuranosuke, to distract Kira's attention enough to pounce (or it was a good excuse to party). On December 14, 1702, the laying low all payed off as the 47 ronin executed their plan. They avenged their lord's death by attacking and killing Kira, then marched to Sengaku, washed the blood from Kira's severed head and presented it at Asano's grave. Upon doing that, 46 committed seppaku on the spot, splattering a plum tree with their blood, while the 47th stayed alive to tell the story and accept the judicial punishment: seppaku on 4 February 1703.
This story has been made into many plays and movies and is celebrated every year on 14 December at Sengakuji Temple. Sadly, I was out of the country on 14 December 2009, but I paid my first vist on 20 December of that year.
Infront of most Shinto-temples one can find huge piles, where hundreds of Sake-casks are stored.
It is often consumed as part of Shinto purification rituals (comparable with the use of grape wine in Christian churches). During World War II, Kamikaze pilots drank sake prior to their suicide missions. Today barrels of sake are broken open (Kagami biraki) during Shinto festivals and ceremonies or following sports victories: this sake (called iwai-zake, literally "celebration sake") is served freely to all to spread good fortune.The "ritual" use is not limited to Sake, also Whisky and wine-barrels can be seen !
The picture shows empty Sake-barrels at Asakusa Shrine, to show off the sponsor's brands
Tokyo has no shortage of shrines and temples. Unfortunately though, many of them seem rather overrated, like the famous Meiji-Jingu which doesnt really live up to expectations (although the creepy surrounding forest, with its squawking, giant crows is like a scene from Hitchock`s "The Birds" , kinda fun in a macabre way).
But there are alternatives.
Shinjuku`s Hanozono-jinja is located right on Yasukuni-dori, one of the city`s main thoroughfares, opposite the giant Isetan department store and close to the Marui store as well. However, you could miss it. Enter through a narrow little alleyway under the red torii gate and suddenly youre in a shady yard of old trees, seemingly a million miles away. On Sundays there is a kimono market, good for cheap second hand traditional clothing for souvenirs, and if youre lucky you might see an outdoor play, staged in the temple`s yard. If you turn left, past the ornate red temple building, you`ll head out right into the blinking neon lights of Kabukicho, a tawdry pleasure-dome of illegal gambling and prostitution. The contrast between the calmness of the temple and its surroundings could hardly be greater.
The same is true of the delightful Togo Shrine, in the teenage shopping mecca of Harajuku. From Harajuku station, walk down Takeshita-dori, "Teenagers Street" - crushed full of hip hop boys and overly-made up girls, with stores selling all kinds of crazy, funky fashion fads...but turn right just before the end of the street (if you can hold out that long in the maddening crowd) .
Suddenly, you are standing by a serene pond, in the garden of this Shinto shrine. When I was there, a traditional wedding was taking place, carp were splashing in the pond and stray cats were dozing in the shady gardens...just seconds away from the seemingly parallel world of vibrant commercialism on Takeshita-dori.
Sundays here is an antique market- not cheap, but good quality pieces if youre looking for something distinctive to take home.
Togo Jinja (Shrine) is dedicated to the spirit of Admiral Heihachiro Togo (1848-1934), considered by many to be Japan's greatest admiral as well as the father of the modern Japanese navy. He was the naval hero of the Russo-Japanese War, where he led the defining 1905 victory against Russia at the Tsushima Straits. He also mentored Emperor Hirohito from 1914-1924. Togo is considered by many Japanese to now be a divine soul, and the shrine is a site for spiritual contact with him.
The shrine was established in 1940 but destroyed in the air bombings of 1945. It was replaced by a contemporary building in 1969 and a memorial hall was added.
Address: 1-5-3 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 150-0001
5 minute walk from Harajuku Station
Zojoji Temple is the Tokugawa family temple. In fact, many of the Tokugawa mausoleums are on the site. It is easily viewed from Tokyo Tower, and is worth a few minutes to look around.
The closest subway stations are Onarimon or Shibakoen Station on the Mita Line and Daimon Station on the Oedo Line. Zojoji is also a 5-10 minute walk from Hamamatsucho Station on the JR Yamanote and JR Keihin-Tohoku Line.
I went to Sensouji Janually 1st. We Japanese go to temple or shrine for pray and wish on the New years day. Of course Sensouji is so famous place so it is so crowd on that day.But you can see a big lantern first. It called by " Kaminari-mon gate" . This lantern weight is 670kg!! So big! This gate is entrance so you go straight and have some shopping at "Nakamise-douri" . You can find SO JAPANESE stuffs.
Cost is not so expensive. And also have a littele food market called by Yomise. Have fun and don't miss it!
By many tourist forgotten and maybe that's why it is so special. The Meiji-shrine in the same-named park. You won't believe that you are in a city with millions of inhabitants if you walk the green lanes towards this sanctuary. The shrine itself is situated quietly in the centre of the park.
'This temple, known to every Japanese, was the setting for part of one of Edo's best known true stories... the tale concerns the fate of 47 ronin (masterless samurai). Their master, Lord Asano, taunted and scorned by his teacher Lord Kira, caused grave offense by drawing his sword in anger. Because the offense occurred within the castle grounds, Asano was obliged to perform seppuku (ritual suicide). On December 1, 1702, Asano's 47 retainers, in an act of revenge, decapitated Kira in his mansion on the banks of the Sumida River and carried the head through the snowy streets of Edo to their lord's grave at Sengaku-ji. Thereafter held in custody but treated with respect for their loyalty, the 47 ronin, ranging in age from five to 77 years, were ordered to commit seppuku.'
[Tokyo Insight Guide pp 183-184]
See my separate travelogue for more photos.