10 Best Shrines and Temples to Visit in Tokyo

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Mixing modernity and tradition is what Japan does best, especially in Tokyo. Skyscrapers and bright lights are often juxtaposed with classical shrines and temples. Visiting a shrine or temple can be a quiet refuge from the hectic city life, so take a deep breath and slow down as you soak up the rich history and spirituality. With so many temples and shrines, here are ten of the best you can visit while in Tokyo.

1. Senso-ji Temple

With so many temples, where to start? Let’s start with Senso-ji, the oldest temple in Tokyo, dating back over 1,300 years. Dedicated to Kannon, the goddess of compassion, this temple receives 30 million visitors a year, making it the most visited spiritual site in the world! It is in the heart of bustling Asakusa, with a 200-meter shopping street between the outer gate and the second gate of the temple. This great temple consists of a five-story pagoda, halls, doors for worship and a garden considered a National Site of Scenic Beauty. Take part in festivals and events like the great Sanja Matsuri in May. You can also stop at the Asakusa Shrine right next door when visiting the temple.

2. Meiji Jingu Shrine

meiji jingu shrine

It’s hard to imagine a shrine hidden in a forest in the heart of Tokyo, but Meiji Jingu Shrine is precisely that. Close to Harajuku Station and Yoyogi Park, it’s easy to forget you’re in the middle of one of the world’s greatest cities when you find yourself among the lush greenery and sprawling shrines. The shrine was built and dedicated to the late Emperor Meiji and his wife Empress Shoken in 1920, who are considered deities here. Today, it is one of the most visited shrines in Tokyo and is a perfect holy place to find some peace.

In and around the shrine, you won’t want to miss the wall of iconic sake barrels, and there are more than 200 as an offering to the wine-loving Meiji Emperor. You will also find some camphor trees tied with a sacred cord, representing the love the Emperor and Empress had for each other. Now many people come to this place hoping to find love luck for themselves. There’s also the Kiyomasa Well in the garden for good luck, and history buffs can learn more about the shrine at the Meiji Jingu Museum.

3. Yasukuni-jinja Shrine

Yasukuni-Jinja Shrine

Founded in 1869 to enshrine those who died for Japan during the war, Yasukuni-jinja is a Shinto shrine in the Chiyoda district, near Kudanshita station. Yasukuni means peaceful country and honors those who sacrificed their lives to help build a peaceful Japan. The spirits of 2.5 million people and animals are commemorated here through written records of their names, origins, dates and places of death. Attached to the shrine is a museum that highlights the Japanese wars from a conservative perspective. It is worth visiting as it is a fascinating and beautiful place. In the spring, impressive cherry blossoms fill the park, attracting many visitors.

4. Zenkoku-ji Temple

In the Kagurazaka district of Shinjuku there is a temple dedicated to the Hindu god Bishamonten. Worshiped in Japan as the God of Wealth, people come here to pray for good luck and business prosperity. The temple attracts visitors with its bright red gate, statues of tigers, and the statue of Bishamonten. It is also known as the first temple in Tokyo to have night stalls open during its festivals, and the Kagurazaka festival that takes place every July is exciting and lively. You may also notice that many wooden ema plaques are dedicated to the J-pop idol group Arashi. One of the band members filmed a movie here in 2007, and it has been an unofficial location for fans ever since. The temple is a short walk from Iidabashi Station and is definitely worth a visit.

5. Zojo-ji Temple

Zojo-ji Temple
Magalie L’Abbé, (CC BY-NC 2.0) by flickr

You can’t miss the temple that is located right next to the Tokyo Tower! As the main temple of Jodo Buddhism in the Kanto region, anyone who enters through the main gate is purified of three worldly afflictions, greed, anger, and ignorance. While most of the buildings have been reconstructed, this main entrance dates back to 1622 and has withstood many wars, earthquakes, and fires. Inside the temple complex, you’ll find the tombs of six shoguns inside the Tokugawa Mausoleum and Museum and a treasure gallery with works by the famous scroll painter Kano Kazunobu. It is the perfect temple to visit for an iconic image of Tokyo and has been the subject of many ukiyo-e woodblock prints by Utagawa Hiroshige.

6. Kanda Myojin Shrine

Home to one of Tokyo’s biggest festivals, the Kanda Myojin Shrine is the perfect place to pray for prosperity, luck, and marriage. This nearly 1,300-year-old shrine is significant in the Kanda/Ochanomizu region. Although it has been rebuilt several times, it is one of the only buildings to survive the bombing of World War II. Tokyo’s oldest and most powerful shrine demonstrates tradition with technology thanks to its proximity to the high-tech district of Akihabara. You can also pray and receive amulets and blessings for electronics, which is undoubtedly vital for many people. You won’t want to miss a visit to this shrine, accessible via Akihabara and Ochanomizu stations.

7. Nezu Shrine

Guilhem Vellut, (CC BY 2.0) par flickr

This gem of a sanctuary ticks all the boxes. Off the beaten track? Check. Ancient? Check. Beautiful? Check. Located near Ueno Park, right next to Nezu Station, this often overlooked shrine. Still, it’s a perfect place to experience Zen right in the heart of Tokyo. It is one of the oldest sanctuaries, and unlike most, it still has many original buildings intact. You can compare it to the Kyoto Fushimi Inari shrine with the iconic red torii. So much beauty is found in the stunning hillside garden, vibrant with blooming azaleas.

Sengaku-ji Temple

There is a lot of history in this temple near Shinagawa station. The famous temple graveyard is where the ’47 Ronin’ are buried. Many movies and books have been written about these samurai who fiercely avenged the death of their lord in 1702. It is a fascinating story, and even more so to be able to pay tribute to the samurai for their utmost loyalty. The temple also houses a Zen school belonging to the Soto Zen Buddhist sect and is considered a prestigious institution in this field. If you want to know more about the samurai and their history, it is worth visiting the museums on both sides of the temple.

9. The Sanctuary

hello sanctuary

One of Tokyo’s main shrines, Hie Shrine, is near Tameikesannō Station, between Akasaka and Nagatacho. Perched on a tree-covered hill, the sanctuary offers a relaxing refuge from the bustle of the city and the towering skyscrapers that surround it. One of the highlights here is the tunnel of 90 red torii gates that you can go through as one of the three entrances to access the shrine. Once you arrive at the main shrine, you may be greeted by cherry blossoms or beautiful blooming wisteria depending on the season. You will also come across the statues of monkey deities, who protect the sanctuary and ward off evil. The shrine is also the main starting point for one of the three main festivals, Sanno Matsuri, which takes place in June.

10. Tomioka Hachiman Shrine

If you want to pray where the samurai did, you won’t want to miss a visit to the largest Hachimangu Shrine in Tokyo. Dedicated to Yawata no Kami, the god of battle, this Edo-period shrine will transport you back in time as you immerse yourself in the culture of the place. Some of the notable things you’ll find when you visit is a statue of Inou Tadataka, the first person to walk all of Japan and map it – his map was so accurate that it closely resembles the current maps of Japan we use. today. In plus du sanctuaire principal, you will find a joli jardin et an étang with a pont rouge pittoresque, des portes torii rouges et dix-sept petits sanctuaires dediés aux dieux de la comédie, de la couture, des affaires, des voyages, sumo, et More. The shrine is located in the city of Koto, Tokyo, near the Monzen-Nakacho station. Best visited during one of the many weekly market or festival visits.

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