• JUL 27, 2021 11:33

Top 5 Famous Shrines and Temples in Tokyo and Japan

Japan, where modern meets tradition: Somewhere among flashy skyscrapers in Tokyo lies a quite Shinto shrine, and not far from it a magnificent Buddhist temple.

Japan, where modern meets tradition: Somewhere among flashy skyscrapers in Tokyo lies a quite Shinto shrine, and not far from it a magnificent Buddhist temple.

This is a guide introducing iconic shrines and temples in Tokyo. This part focuses on the most famous ones. Whether it is due to their long history, or cultural importance, the following shrines and temples are some of the most visited sites in Japan.

Difference between Shrine and Temple

Shrines (神社) serve as a holy site to a specific deity from Shinto religion, where they are being worshipped. Shinto is the indigenous faith and national religion of the Japanese people, with a strong respect for nature and ancestors. Unlike other religions such as Christianity, which has one God, in Shinto many different “kami”, gods, are being worshipped.

At temples(寺), on the other hand, is where Buddhist live and worship Buddha. Buddhism arrived in Japan somewhere between 539-571 BC (reign of the 29th Emperor Kinmei). In the past it was believed that Shinto’s “kami” protect Buddhism, and as a result, Shinto shrines where constructed near Buddhist temples.

Meiji Jingu - 明治神宮

More than three million people visit Meiji Jingu at the beginning of each year, making it the most frequented of all the shrines and temples in Japan.
The 70-hectare vast relaxing forest in the middle of Tokyo, are a perfect way to escape from the city jungle and dive into a solemn realm. Established to commemorate Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken in 1920, the shrine fell victim of air raids and incendiary bombs during World War II, which led to its complete destruction. Fortunately, it was immediately rebuilt after the war.

The construction of Meiji Jingu reflects the importance of nature in Shinto, when in ancient times Japanese people believed that Gods inhabit forests. Thus, remarkable greenery surrounding the shrine.
In October 2019, the Meiji Jingu Museum opened, where curious visitors can have a glance at the collections from the shrine. Even belongings from the once ruling couple are displayed.
Meiji Jingu is a must visit Tokyo spot.


1-1 Yoyogikamizonocho, Shibuya City, Tokyo 151-8557

Opening Hours:
Everyday from 5AM - 6:10PM

1 min. walk from Harajuku Sta. / Meijingu Mae Sta. (JR Yamanote Line / Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line)
3 min. walk from Sangubashi Sta. (Odakyu Line)
5 min. walk from Yoyogi Sta. (JR Yamanote Line / JR Chuo, Sobu Line / Toei Oedo Line)
5 min. walk from Kita-Sando Sta. (Tokyo Metro Fukutoshin Line)

Tokyo Daijingu - 東京大神宮

To be able to one day make a pilgrimage and visit the Grand Shrine of Ise (Mie prefecture), was the greatest wish of every Japanese person in the Edo period (1603-1867). Along with the modernization of Japan during the Meiji Restoration, Tokyo Daijingu was built in 1880. It would finally allow people to worship the enshrined deity in the Grand Shrine of Ise from a far. Today, Tokyo Daijingu is one of the top five major shrines in the capital. In addition, it is popular among young couples or people who would improve their love life, as Tokyo Daijingu was the Shrine that held the first Shinto wedding ceremony in Japan.


2 Chome-4-1 Fujimi, Chiyoda City, Tokyo 102-0071

Opening hours:
Everyday from 8AM - 7PM

5 min. walk from Idabashi Sta. (Yurakucho Line / Namboku Line / Tozai Line / Toei Oedo Line)

Senso-ji - 浅草寺

Not only is Senso-ji one of the most famous temples in Japan, it is also the oldest temple in Tokyo. It origins date back to 645, after two brothers had found a statue of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva (Kannon), the goddess of mercy. Later a Buddhist priest named Shokai hide it from public view, and it has never been unveiled, even to this day.
Throughout the year Senso-ji holds many events such as the Hatsumode (First Temple Visit of the Year), Honzon Jigen – (Celebration of the Appearance of the Bodhisattva Kannon), and Hana Matsuri (Celebration of Buddha’s Birthday) among others. Besides those festivals, Senso-ji has a large roaming area, including the Nakamise Shopping Street, which makes it highly popular among locals and tourists. Senso-ji receives up to 30 million visitors every year.


2 Chome-3-1 Asakusa, Taito City, Tokyo 111-0032

Opening Hours:
Sinsoj's main hall is open everyday from 6AM - 5PM from April to September, and from 6:30AM - 5PM from October to March.

5 min. walk from Asakusa Sta. (Ginza Line / Toei Asakusa Line / Tobu Skytree Line / Tsukuba Express)

Kanda Shrine - 神田神社

Kanda Shrine was first built more than 1300 years ago, and has changed its location over three times: From Otemachi in 730, later as an expansion of the Edo Castle, and was finally relocated to its current site, since 1616. Kanda Shrine gained on significance especially during the Edo period (1603-1868), when warlords and the warrior class paid deep respect to it.
Kanda Shrine is to this date one of the historically most important shrines in Japan. Furthermore, some of the major gods (kami) are enshrined at Kanda Shrine, where you can pray for fortune, matrimony, and business. The Kanda Matsuri Festival, which includes a festive parade through areas in central Tokyo, is held every other year in May, and is considered one of the top three festivals all over Japan.


2 Chome-16-2 Sotokanda, Chiyoda City, Tokyo 101-0021

Opening Hours:

5 min. walk from Ochanomizu Sta. (JR Chuo Sobu Line / Marunouchi Line)
5 min. walk from Shinochanomizu Sta. (Chiyoda Line)
5 min. walk from Suehirocho Sta. (Ginza Line)
7 min. walk from Akihabra Sta. (JR Yamanote Line / Hibiya Line)

Yasukuni Shrine - 靖国神社

Perhaps one of the most controversial shrines in Japan, Yasukuni Shrine pays tribute to the people who have sacrificed their lives during wars in Japan. Originally called Shokonsha, it was later renamed to its current name in 1879 by Emperor Meij. From national crises such as the Boshin War, Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese wars, all the way to World War II, Yasukuni Shrine dignifies around 2.5 million spirits, who have lost their lives for the greater good of the nation.

The shrine is surrounded by countless cherry trees. Some of them are utilized by the meteorological agency to predict the cherry blossom period in Tokyo each year.

The Yushukan Museum next to Yasukuni shrine gives insight of Japan’s wars from a Japanese perspective.


3 Chome-1-1 Kudankita, Chiyoda City, Tokyo 102-8246

Opening Hours:
Everyday from 6AM - 6PM

5 min walk from Kudanshita Sta. (Tozai Line / Hanzomon Line / Toei Shinjuku Line)
10 min walk from Ichigaya Sta. (JR Sobu Line / Yurakucho Line / Namboku Line / Toei Shinjuku Line)
10 min walk from Idabashi Sta. (JR Chuo Line / Tozai Line / Yurakucho Line / Namboku Line)

The above mentioned locations are definitely worth exploring for people who have never visited shrines and temples before. Especially in order to get an overall impression of what kind of holy spots Japan has to offer, those places are a must visit.

(By Stefan)

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