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Peter's Reviews ( Shrines )

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  • Hie Jinja (Shrines / Tameikesanno)
  • 2007/10/02
  • Located in downtown Akasaka, Hie is one of the largest shrines I have been to yet. It's on a hill, partially isolating it from the surrounding city. Hie Jinja sports the usually shrine accouterments-lots of Torii (gates, often painted bright red), a hand washing area, a bell to tug if you feel the need to offer up a prayer, and quite a few connecting buildings, including a charm shop where you can buy small souvenirs, and living quarters for the caretakers. Hie was gearing up for Matsuri when I went there in early June-special relic containers were being constructed and brightly colored lanterns and streamers dotted the shrine site. There are usually quite a few Japanese people at Hie, coming to pray, take photographs, or just eat lunch away from the office. However, Hie does not receive as much attention as other shrines, particularly the controversial Yasukuni, since it lacks unique characters that distinguish it from the thousands of other jinjas in the area.
  • Hakusan Jinja (Shrines / Komagome)
  • 2007/06/13
  • The Hakusan Shinto shrine has a really nice feel to it. It's in a relatively quiet Tokyo neighborhood, and the path up towards the shrine is lined with cafes and pretty green lanterns for Matsuri. I got the feeling that the shrine functioned as the village park for the locals - lots of older people and a few young families were strolling around. There's a clearing where a man was performing with his trained monkey.
    There was no English and no attendants spoke any, so I didn't really discover the significance of this particular jinja, and it's pretty difficult to tell from the outside - most jinjas I've seen look like a smaller (or larger, I suppose) version of the Yasukuni shrine. An ornate wood building with a coin offering at the entrance, where people toss in a few hundred yen and pray by bowing and clapping their hands twice. Some ring the bell rope.
    Beautiful bright flowers line the walkway. There isn't a whole lot to do unless you are into Shinto - you can perform the hand washing ritual, just like at any other jinja, or buy a charm, or pray.
  • Suitengu (Shrines / Nihombashi)
  • 2007/06/13
  • Suitengu is a Shinto shrine for the goddess of maternity, although I only found that out by Googling the place after I went there. There's very little information about the shrine, and none in English, so there's not a whole lot for a tourist to do except look at the temple structure. I don't find Japanese jinjas nearly as interesting as, say, Roman or Greek temples because Shinto shrines tend to be newer (they're typically built from wood, not stone) and have less history behind them or written on their walls. Perhaps this is my Western education speaking, but I don't find the minimalist, abstract decorating of jinjas as interesting as statues and carvings of Greek battles that actually happened.
    If you still want to go, you can buy delicious senbei (Japanese rice snacks) and Shinto charms at Suitengu. Also, there's some sort of dog shrine that seems exclusive to the place. You can buy prayers for children, and special maternity clothing too. I'd rather visit Kamakura or Yasukuni jinja, simply because of its current political significance.
  • Yasukuni Jinja (Shrines / Iidabashi)
  • 2007/06/06
  • Yasukuni is a Shinto shrine that honors Japan's war dead. On its official list are over 2 million soldiers and other who served and/or died for the Emperor, among which are 14 World War II Class A war criminals. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi made frequent pilgrimages to this downtown Tokyo shrine while in office, inciting international furor over the implicit honoring of men responsible for human rights abuses, particularly in Korea, China, and Taiwan.
    Yasukuni is quite a tourist draw simply for the international controversy, although the site itself does not contain anything particularly unique. It does have some very, very big Torii (Shinto entrance gates) and the building it self is very well kept, so if you're in for a jinja visit it may as well be Yasukuni.
    School children often visit on school trips, but otherwise you'll mostly find older Japanese coming to pray or take pictures themselves.
    Yasukuni is a 5 minute walk from the Shinjuk Kudanshita Metro station.
  • Hanazono Jinja (Shrines / Shinjuku)
  • 2007/06/05
  • Hanazono Jinja is conveniently located close to Shinjuku station, so you can get a few prayers in without missing your lunch hour. But seriously, Hanazono is a nice little Jinja to visit. There's no English and very few people or information, but it's a nice place to eat lunch at or get away from the city for a few minutes. Other than that, there's nothing particularly special about this jinja, especially if you've been touring and seeing them on every street corner. I don't think any important events or stories took place here, but you never know.