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Ultimate Guide to Visiting Shrines in Tokyo

By Thao | January, 2022 

Are you looking for authentic, interesting, and unique shrines in Tokyo for your holiday? Are you worried about Are you looking forward to breath-taking photo spots at shrines in Tokyo? This Ultimate Guide to Visiting Shrines in Tokyo may be what you are looking for!

For those looking for unique experiences visiting shrines in Tokyo or are curious about how to visit shrines, you have come to the right place. In this guide, I’ll give you some useful tips to make your trip to shrines in Tokyo an amazing memory.

This article is a  part of our extensive series on learning about Japanese culture and  Online Japanese Lessons at Japan Switch.

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    Shinto Shrines in Tokyo

    What are Shinto Shrines?

    Japan attracts outsiders as a country abundant in culture, history, and spirituality. Shintoism, the country’s indigenous religion, has been deeply embedded in the development of Japan throughout the course of history. Shrines, where one or more Shinto gods or kami (神) are enshrined and worshipped, are sacred places for followers of the Japanese Shinto religion in particular and for every Japanese person in general. 

    Shrine - A must in your Tokyo itinerary

    While you are in Japan, a visit to the shrine is a must to explore its history, mesmerizing architecture, ceremonies, and customs. Among approximately 80,000 shrines throughout Japan, around 1,450 are located in Tokyo. While the former capital of Japan, Kyoto, is the most famous for shrines, shrines in Tokyo nevertheless are definitely worth your visit.

    Shrines have some distinctive structural elements. The most remarkable of all is the torii gate - a tall, vermillion gate that marks the boundary between the secular world within and the temporal world outside the shrine. Both Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples share this similar symbolic structure but the latter has a more elaborate entrance gate referred to as sanmon (三門). Lying at the heart of the shrine is honden (本殿, main hall) - the main dwelling area of the kami. In some cases where the bonds to the kami manifest in a different form, such as a mountain or an object, the honden is not necessary.


    If you’re looking to read more about Shinto and the traditions and ideas behind the religion, head over to our Guide to Japanese cultures and Ultimate Guide to Shrines and Temples in Tokyo! 


     

    torii gate
    honden

    When and why do Japanese people go to shrines?

    Not only do shrines play a crucial role throughout Japan’s history but they also are instrumental in the daily life of Japanese people even today. The Japanese go to Shinto shrines to pay their respects to Shinto deities or to pray for good fortune. They are especially visited for various special occasions such as New Year (Hatsumode, 初詣), Setsubun (節分), Shichigosan (七五三), and many other festivals. A few weeks after birth, new-born babies are customarily taken to a shrine and blessed; and wedding ceremonies are often celebrated there. While such routine comes naturally to the locals, shrine visiting is a unique experience for foreigners as it gives a fascinating glance into Japan’s rich history and traditions. 


    Setsubun is one of the many interesting Japanese traditions. It might seem like just throwing beans at your father dressed as a demon, but there’s a lot more to it! Read more in our Ultimate Guide to Setsubun.


    shrine visiting

    Omikuji is what you cannot miss when visiting shrines in Tokyo

    Omikuji - the Gods' advices

    Are you interested in what will happen to you in the future? Are you curious about your development in education or career? How will your love life turn out this year? The Japanese Omikuji may give you the answers. 

    Omikuji (御神籤), literally translated “sacred lot”, refers to fortune-telling written on strips of paper that are offered at both Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples in Japan. There’s usually a lot written there and it’s nothing like a fortune cookie, in case you were wondering. Receiving omikuji remains one of the traditional and amusing shrine-visiting activities that appeals to both Japanese and foreigners. 

    While in the past, omikuji was deemed as a conveyor of the gods’ opinion on important matters, and on extremely sacred occasions, these days anyone can  learn their “fate” for just 100 - 200 yen. First, you pay respect to the enshrined god by praying and then make a small offering at the omikuji corner. Next, you can shake the box and draw one omikuji stick randomly from it; then inform the shrine maidens of the stick number, and they will give you the omikuji result.

    Japanese girls reading omikuji

    How to read Omikujis?

    You have arrived at shrines in Tokyo and drew your omikuji but are confused about how to read them. Sometimes they’re available in English but how do you read your omikuji results when it is entirely written in Japanese? Although you may not understand everything as the fortune is explained in detail about your luck in numerous aspects such as love, health, and money, you will easily notice the indication of your overall luck. Here are a few common overall luck symbols that you may need.

    Japanese

    Romanji

    English

    大吉 

    Daikichi  

    Great blessing

    中吉  

    Chūkichi 

    Middle blessing

    小吉

    Shōkichi 

    Small blessing

    凶   

    Kyou

    Bad fortune

    大凶

    Daikyou  

    The worst fortune

    You’ll find countless omikuji tied to the branches of pine trees or metal racks nearby. This is because when you are not satisfied with the bad fortunes, it is a custom to fold them up and attach it to such structures, implying that bad luck will wait (待つ, matsu) by the pine tree (松, matsu) rather than follow the bearer. If you receive good fortunes, you can either tie it to the tree or wires to magnify the luck by using the “life force of the tree” or you can simply keep it as a nice souvenir from your trip to shrines in Tokyo!

    Omikuji tied to metal racks at a shrine

    Let’s head to some shrines in Tokyo and draw your omikuji! We have prepared some lists of shrines that cater to your different interests. Whether you want to immerse yourself in the shrine history, take photos for your Instagram posts or enjoy the shrine festivals, our guide may have all the answers! 

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    Top 3 Unmissable Shrines in Tokyo

    Three shrines stand out among the long list of shrines in Tokyo. Not only do they offer an insight into Japanese history, they have their unique features that are hard to come by in other shrines.

    1. Kameido Tenjin Shrine (亀戸天神社)

    Located in a peaceful area in Koto Ward since 1661, Kameido Tenjin Shrine is an unmissable stop if you want to visit shrines in Tokyo, not only for praying for academic success but especially for flowers blooming in different seasons. The Shrine houses Michizane Sugawara , the god of learning and study, and attracts a lot of students during exam periods. 

    The site also hosts various kinds of flowers whose blooming season will each be celebrated by a festival. The festival calendar starts with the Ume (, Japanese plum) Festival in mid-February to early March, followed by the Fuji (藤, wisteria) Festival between late April and early May, and Kiku (, Chrysanthemum) Festival in November. Their seasonal blossoming adds different color shades to the picturesque Kameido Tenjin Shrine throughout the year. 

    Ume
    Fuji
    Kiku

    One significant architectural touch to the shrine is the embodiment of human life integrated in the path to honden (本殿, main hall). The itinerary includes three bridges — Otoko-bashi (男橋, men’s bridge), Taira-bashi (flat bridge) and Onna-bashi (女橋, women’s bridge) — consecutively symbolize the past, present and future. It is said that it allows visitors’ purification before their conversation with Gods. Within a 15 - minute walking distance from JR Kameido Station or Kinshicho Station, you can immerse yourself in the relaxing and beautiful atmosphere.


    Location: 3 - 6 - 1 Tokyo Koutou-ku Kameido (Ueno / Asakusa / RyogokuArea)

    Contact: 0336810010

    Operation Time: 6:00 - 17:00

    Admission: Free


    Kameido Tenjin Shrine in Tokyo

    2. Imado Shrine (今戸神社)

    Imado Shrine, as the name suggests, is situated in the Imado area of Asakusa. Once associated with Hachiman (八幡神)- the god of war, this shrine is now dedicated to three gods: Izanagi – Izanami (the first mythic married couple according to Shinto), and Fukurokuju (one of the Seven Lucky Gods), and Emperor Ojin. Legend has it that once upon a time, an old and poor lady was forced to let a cat go due to poverty. The cat returned to her dream that night, claiming it would bring good fortunes if she made cat figurines. She followed the good omen and made ceramic cats for sale. Soon after that, those figurines sold like hot cakes, and she escaped poverty.

    In recent years, Imado Shrine thrived  and earned itself a reputation as a  “matchmaking” shrine. The myth of Izanagi and Izanami inspires prayers to wish for suitable partners. The shrine has limited space but intrigues visitors with ubiquitous decorative images of maneki neko (招き猫, beckoning cats), most of which are in pairs. Around the shrine you will also come across a lot of cat decorated “ema” (wooden prayer plaques) full of wishes. What do you think? Did the cute cats successfully invite you to Imado Shrine in Tokyo?

    Maneki Neko in shrines in Tokyo

    Location: 1-5-22 Imado, Taito-ku, Tokyo

    Contact: 0338722703 

    Operation Time: 9:00 - 17:00    

    Admission: Free


    3. Ueno Toshogu Shrine (上野東照宮神社)

    The Toshogu Shrine in Ueno worships Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康), the founder of Edo (江戸) period. Surviving several bombings and destructions, the shrine remains resilient and is considered an important cultural property of Japan. What makes the shrine stand out is the vivacious gold torii (鳥居, gate), the intricate Sukibei Wall, etc. that exudes the Edo period’s glamor. The shrine also has a garden where peonies bloom vividly amid the snowy winter, catching the eyes of the visitors.  Aside from admiring the traditional Japanese architecture, visitors can simply come and pray for good fortune.

    Ueno Toshogu Shrine in Tokyo at night

    Location: 9-88 Ueno Park, Taito-ku, Tokyo 110-0007

    Contact: 0338223455

    Operation Time: 9:00 – 16:30

    Admission: Free to the outer shrine grounds, 500 yen to view the inner shrine buildings, and 700 yen for the peony garden.


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    Top 3 Shrines in Tokyo with cool history

    Going to a shrine is also an educational experience as you are introduced to the historical periods the shrine has witnessed itself as well as the interesting myths associated with them. This list is composed of the oldest or historically significant shrines in Tokyo that you should visit!

    1. Meiji Jingu Shrine (明治神宮神社)

    Meiji Jingu Shrine is undoubtedly present in every list of top shrines in Japan and is among Tokyo’s icons. One of the largest and most important Shinto shrines, Meiji Jingu Shrine is an imperial shrine established in commemoration of the first emperor of modern Japan, Emperor Meiji, and his wife, Empress Shoken. It is no surprise that the shrine is always overwhelmed during New Year and if you are looking for a tranquil shrine visit, it is best to avoid peak seasons. The shrine is based at Yoyogi Park and has its own forest, which offers its visitors a calm and peaceful walk which is almost unimaginable in the vibrant Tokyo. You can also witness traditional Japanese Shinto weddings held during the weekends, and will definitely be captivated by impressive Shinto structures. 

    Meiji Jingu Shrine in Tokyo

    The Meiji Jingu Museum, which can be accessed easily from the Harajuku shrine entrance, was just opened in October 2019. For those who are curious about this history period, the museum exhibits various objects collected from the shrines, including interesting personal belongings of the enshrined emperor and empress. After a culture study session, visitors can stroll around the Inner Garden or the Nanchi Pond. 


    Location: 1-1, Yoyogi Kamizono-cho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 151-8557, Japan

    Contact: 0333795511

    Operation Time: 9:00 - 16:00

    Admission: Free to the outer shrine grounds, 1000 yen to visit the museum, and 500 yen for strolling around the garden


    2. Asakusa Shrine (浅草神社)

    Asakusa Shrine is also an Important Cultural Property of Japan. The most noticeable about Asakusa Shrine is its location – it is located to the right of the famous Sensoji Temple( 浅草寺)’s main hall. Compared to its neighbor, the shrine appears smaller yet more tranquil. Originally, they were integrated and not until the Meiji period was the shrine separated from Sensoji Temple. The shrine’s long historical and local significance makes it one of a worthwhile visit if you are interested in Japanese history.

    The shrine is to pay tribute to Sanja Gongen (浅草神社) - two fishermen brothers who discovered the Kannon statue from the Sumida River, and a monk who consecrated it. For such reasons, the locals often dearly refer to the shrine as Sanja-sama (三社様). The shrine is quite young compared to others in Tokyo, and luckily evaded the negative impacts of earthquakes and fires. In May, visitors can stop by the shrine for Sanja Matsuri(三社祭), one of the Three Great Festivals of Edo, which features a parade of a hundred mikoshi (神輿, portable shrines) in which kami are symbolically seated.

    Asakusa Shrine in Tokyo

    Location: 2 - 3 - 1, Asakusa, Taito, Tokyo 111-0032

    Contact: 0338441575

    Operation Time: 6:00 - 19:00

    Admission: Free


    3. Hie Shrine (日枝神社)

    Hie shrine is often known for being the Tokyo version of the famous Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine (伏見稲荷大社) in Kyoto with the Senbon Torii (千本鳥居, the 1000 torii gates) structure. It is a tunnel of red torii and is the most famous photo spot here.

    Monkey statues

    If Imado Shrine is for cat lovers, Hie Shrine is for those fascinated by monkeys. A large number of monkey statues of the shrine grab a first-time visitor’s attention.  This is because Hie Shrine worships the deity Oyamakui-no-kami whose messengers are simians.  It is believed that he needs them nearby, hence the monkey images can be seen everywhere in the shrine! The monkeys are also regarded as patrons of harmonious marriages and safe childbirth, attracting a lot of female visitors. 

    Surprisingly, the shrine has both stairs and escalators as it is on top of a large hill. You can either leisurely walk up while enjoying nature or appreciate the beautiful views being carried up by the elevator. With a long history, the shrine houses a National Treasure and several cultural assets which are open for sightseeing. If you want to experience a festival at the shrine, you should visit it in June where the Sanno Festival (山王祭) is held in a similar fashion to Sanja Matsuri of Asakusa Shrine.

    mikoshi

    Location: 2 - 10 - 5 Nagatacho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-0014

    Contact: 0335812471

    Operation Time: 9:00 - 16:00

    Admission: Free


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    Top 3 Instagramable/TikTok-Worthy Shrines in Tokyo

    What factors do you consider when choosing a photo spot for your Instagram posts or Tiktok videos at a Tokyo shrine? Do you want to capture the Japanese vibe? Or do you want to highlight the unique traits of the visited shrine? We pick the top 3 shrines where you cannot stop yourselves from snapping some gorgeous shots!

    1. Nezu Shrine ( 根津神社)

    The Nezu Shrine, one of the oldest shrines in Tokyo, is a beautiful and peaceful Shinto Shrine near the Yanaka neighborhood and Ueno Park. The Shrine is highlighted for vermillion torii gate tunnels like Hie Shrine but is less crowded and easier for you to take great photos for your social media!

    The shrine is usually covered in a lush green color but embellished by pink, purple, and white colors in April where azalea bushes blossom, which allows amazing photo shots. During this period, the Tsutsuji Matsuri (文京つつじ祭り, Bunkyo Azalea Festival) is also host, attracting the attention of flower-viewers.

    Nezu Shrine Vermillion torii gates
    Nezu Shrine in Tokyo
    Nezu Shrine torii

    Location: 1- 28 - 9 Nezu, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-0013

    Contact: 0338220753

    Operation time: 6:00-17.00

    Admission: Free


    2. Kanda Myoujin Shrine (神田明神社)

    Another oldest Tokyo shrine, the Kanda Myojin Shrine is dedicated to two of the seven Gods of Fortune -  Daikoku ( だいこく) and Ebisu (えびす) – and Tairo Masakado (平将門) – a rebel against the Heian Court. The shrine was reconstructed several times because of earthquakes. Despite the integration of modern technology, Kanda Myoujin preserves the original vibe of an Edo-era shrine. 

    Kanda Myoujin Shrine in Tokyo
    Kanda Myoujin

    The shrine is very eye-catching among the surrounding area of Akihabara (秋葉原) due to its radiantly colored architecture and florid symbolic decorations. Nearby is Akihabara – a popular spot for otaku culture, celebrating anime, manga, etc. The shrine also made its appearance in several mentioned entertainment materials. Photos taken at this shrine will feature spectacular colorful scenery as well as emanate the very rich Japanese vibe. The shrine holds two major festivals annually - Kanda Matsuri (神田祭) which is in May once in 2 years and Daikoku Matsuri (だいこく祭) which is held a three-day January.

    Kanda Myoujin in Akihabara

    Address: 2 - 16 - 2 Sotokanda, Chiyoda City, Tokyo 101-0021

    Contact: 0332540753.

    Operation Time: 24/7

    Admission: Free


    3. Asakusa Otori shrine (浅草鷲神社)

    Otori  Shrine, a small-scale yet popular shrine located in Asakusa, was built to honor the mythic prince Yamato Takeru (ヤマトタケル) who afforded some decent governance in the local area. The people expressed their gratitude with the Otori Shrine after his death. The shrine’s famous attraction is the Tori no Ichi (酉の市) markets held during November on the Days of Bird. At such markes, lucky decorated rakes called Kumade (熊手) will be for sale. Kumade literally means “bear paw”. Since a rake is for gathering things, the Japanese consider it as a talisman for gathering fortune. A trip to this shrine in November guarantees countless photogenic spots at Tori no Ichi markets!

    Otori Shrine in Tokyo

    Location: 3 - 18 - 7 Senzoku, Taito-ku, Tokyo.

    Contact: 0338761515

    Operation Time: 24/7

    Admission: Free


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    Top 3 Underrated Shrines in Tokyo

    As there are so many shrines in Tokyo, some shrines get lost among the never-ending lists despite their original characteristics and fascinating offers. This list unveils the hidden gems that may appeal to adventurers and explorers!

    1. Yushima Tenjin Shrine (湯島天満宮)

    One hidden gem in Tokyo is Yushima Tenjin Shrine, the shrine of Tenjin (天神)- the god of learning. The distinctive architectural design of this shrine is the shaden style entirely from Japanese cedar, which stands the shrine out from other shrines in Tokyo. Visitors will also be amazed at painted carvings of scenes from Japanese legend as well as a large bronze statue of a cow – Tenjin’s servant. This nade-ushi (撫で, cow statue) is said to cure physical illnesses by stroking it. Yushima Tenjin Shrine holds Ume Matsuri (梅まつり) - Festival for beautiful plum blossoms in February and  Yushima Tenjin festival itself with traditional parades in May.


    Location: 3 - 30 - 1 Yushima, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-0034

    Contact: 0338360753

    Operation Time: 6:00-20:00

    Admission: free for main ground but 300 - 500yen for treasury


    2. Tomioka Hachimangu Shrine (富岡八幡宮神社)

    Tomioka Hachimangu used to be a place dedicated to the god of battle Hachiman (八幡神 ) and worshipped by samurai warriors but became the merchant shrine where prayers come for traffic safety later on. This underrated shrine in Tokyo is where the first sumo (相撲) tournaments took place. The shrine also hosts the Fukugawa Hachi Matsuri (深川八幡祭り), the Festival every three years in mid-August, featuring a parade of 120 mikoshi (portable shrines) through the vibrant streets of Fukugawa district. Hopefully, the next Fukugawa Hachi Matsuri Festival will be held next year, 2023. After visiting the shrine, you can take a few steps to Monzen-Nakacho (門前仲町), Tokyo’s old downtown area that replicates vividly how life was during the Edo Period. 

    Tomioka Hachimangu Sumo

    Location: 1 - 20 - 3 Tomioka, Koto-ku, Tokyo 135-0047

    Contact: 0336421315

    Operation Time: 24/7

    Admission: Free


    Sports fan? We love sumo too but we’re also big fans of Japanese archery! Take a look at our Guide to Japanese Archery and a shot across the bow to inner peace!

    3. Hatonomori Hachiman Shrine (鳩森八幡神社)

     

    Fujizaka is a mound that replicates Mount Fuji

    Hatonomori Hachiman Shrine is another shrine in Tokyo dedicated to Hachiman, the god of battle. It does not receive as much attention from the tourists as it deserves. This small shrine near Shinjuku Gyoen possesses a Noh theater stage, and a shogi-do hall.

    In addition, if you don’t have the chance to climb Fuji-san (富士山, Mt. Fuji), the shrine also has a fujizaka (富士塚) - an earthen mound built using volcanic stone from Mt. Fuji. Climbing over the fujizaka is believed to give you blessings in the same way that climbing Mt. Fuji itself will offer! The mound in Hatonomori Hachiman Shrine is called Sendagaya Fuji (which has a lovely view at the top. Mid-September is when the shrine celebrates the Annual Grand Festival – Reitaisai (例祭) for those who want a festive atmosphere. 


    Location: 1 - 1 - 24 Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku Tokyo 151-0051

    Contact: 0334011284

    Operation Time: 9:00-17:00

    Admission: Free


    Top 3 Shrines in Tokyo for special occasions

    As shrines are places where big events or activities take place during special Japanese occasions, it is without a doubt an enjoyable and rare experience to spend time at shrines in Tokyo around this time. I have provided you with a list of shrines in Tokyo that promise remarkable memories for New Year’s Eve, New Year and Setsubun.

    1. Oji Inari Shrine (王子稲荷神社) for New Year’s Eve

    On New Year’s Eve, Oji Inari Shrine will hold the Kitsune-no-gyoretsu (大晦日狐の行列) or the Fox Procession during this time. The Procession is practiced based on the story that on New Year's Eve, foxes – the servants of the god of fertility and fortune Inari (稲荷)- from across the Kanto region will assemble under an enoki tree nearby, change into clothes, and come to the shrine to offer prayers. The parade proceeds from Shozoku Inari Shrine toward Oji Inari Shrine, ending with the performance of folk music and a lion dance at the Kaguraden.

    Fox Servants
    Fox Procession at Oji Inari Shrine

    Location:  1-12-26 Kishimachi, Kita, Tokyo 114-0021 Japan

    Contact:  0339073032

    Operation Time: 24/7

    Admission: Free


    2. Tokyo Daijingu Shrine (東京大神宮) for Hatsumode (初詣)

    Hatsumode (初詣) is the Japanese custom of visiting shrines or temples on New Year. There are many shrines in Tokyo to spend Hatsumode, but we recommend Tokyo Daijingu Shrine, an elegant shrine nestled at the heart of Iidabashi. The shrine is well known for the charm of good relationships and marriages as it was the first shrine ever to hold a Shinto wedding ceremony. The Shrine houses Amaterasu-Sume, Toyouke-no-Ohkami and Ise Jingu - three deities of creation and growth. It is extremely famous for the power of love and matchmaking. During Hatsumode, every shrine will be overcrowded, and it is frightfully difficult to line up to get into the main hall. If you still want to experience the joyful atmosphere of Hatsumode but not suffocate from the crowds, Tokyo Daijingu is the best candidate!

    Tokyo Daijingu

    Location: 2 - 4 - 1, Fujimi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, 102-0071 

    Contact: 0332623566

    Operation Time: 8:00 - 19:00

    Admission: Free


    3. Suitengu Shrine (水天宮) for Setsubun (節分)

    Spring in Japan starts on February 3rd. The day is celebrated as Setsubun (translated as ‘seasonal division’) and associated with the activities of “spring cleaning”. The most common spring-cleaning ritual is mamemaki (豆まき): people throw soybeans out the door and shout Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi! (鬼は外! 福は内!, Demons out! Good luck in!) with a belief that this will drive away evil spirits. Many shrines and temples in Tokyo organize a larger scale, public event for this ritual, among which Suitengu is among the reasonably-priced few (¥5,000 for adults, ¥2,000 for children). Suitengu also offers performances of traditional kagura dance (神楽) and kamishibai (紙芝居) storytelling alongside the official ceremonies.


    Location: 2 - 4 - 1, Fujimi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, 102-0071 

    Contact: 0332623566

    Operation Time: 8:00 - 19:00

    Admission: Free


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    Japanese shrine etiquette for visiting shrines in Tokyo

    Do you want to visit Shinto shrines in Tokyo like a local? Follow our detailed guide and make the best out of your shrine visit!

    The act of visiting and paying homage at a shrine is omairi for normal occasions, and hatsumode during New Year. In tradition, you should not visit a shrine in case of sickness or having open wounds because they are frowned upon as causes of impurity. The shrine visiting experience starts at the shrine’s entrance – the torii gate. Bow before and after entering the torii gate is a sign of respect for the sacred area. To be even more respectful, avoid entering in the center as the center of the torii gate is believed to belong to the spirits to pass through.

    Next, you can purify your souls by washing your hands or mouths at the temizuya, a large communal water basin. Purifying the mouth is not mandatory, but remember to spit into the drain, not the basin as the water in the temizuya is for purification.

    Next, you can purify your souls by washing your hands or mouths at the temizuya, a large communal water basin. Purifying the mouth is not mandatory, but remember to spit into the drain, not the basin as the water in the temizuya is for purification.

    Shrines in Tokyo - donate and pray

    An ema board – a board where “ema” (a small wooden plaque on which people write down their wishes and hopes) – is often present in Shinto shrines. You can buy ema on site and convey your prayers.

    Now you’re clean and move towards the main hall where prayers are heard by the god of that particular shrine! If there is any kind of bell or gong, ring 2 or 3 times to inform the gods of your arrival. The basic prayer ritual is called “nihai-nihakushu-ichihai” and carried out in front of the altar. The ritual is simple: after making a small donation to the offering box “saisen bako”, you will bow deeply twice, then bring your hands up to the eye level and clap twice. Then, you will say the prayer while closing your eyes and keeping your palms pressed together in front of your chest. Finally, open your eyes and bow deeply one more time to finish the ritual.

    Shrines in Tokyo - ema board

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    DON’T do these 3 things at shrines in Tokyo (or anywhere, really)

    shrines in Japan shimenawa

    1.The white paper zig zags lines shimenawa are hung around with the purpose of marking the boundary of something or someplace that is probably sacred. Please refrain yourself from entering areas with those barriers!

    2. You should not toss the monetary offering into the box from afar; instead, approach the box and place your offering gently.

    3. Don’t take photos inside the shrines! While the exterior shrines or the grounds allow cameras , it is often prohibited to take photos inside the shrines as it is very disrespectful. No matter how craving you are for new profile pictures, respect the kami, the shrine, and the Japanese culture!


    Tips for shrines in Tokyo

    • Tip 1: Read the instructions to pray or ask the shrine maidens! These are the girls in red and white outfits. 
    • Tip 2: When you are unsure of something, follow your fellow Japanese shrine-visitors!
    • Tip 3: Rent a kimono for amazing photo shoots! If you’re not sure about kimono, check out the Guide to the Difference Between Yukata and Kimono.
    • Tip 4: Save your 5-yen coins for donations!

    Tips for visiting shrines in Tokyo safely during the pandemic

    • Tip 1: Avoid more famous and more crowded shrines. Check our Top 3 Underrated shrines in Tokyo above!
    • Tip 2: When you "clean your souls" at temizuya, avoid rinsing your mouths and spitting in the drain as rinsing mouths is not mandatory for visitng a shrine.
    • Tip 3: Bring your own pen to write your wishes on the ema board!
    • Tip 4: Refrain from visiting the shrines during special occasions! Save our Top 3 Shrines in Tokyo for special occasions for 2023!

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    Now you are ready to visit a shrine in Tokyo like a local! Enjoy your trip and check out the Japan Switch Blog for more great articles on learning Japanese and Japanese culture!  


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