As promised. A follow up post to my original ‘Finding temples in Kyoto‘. These are my top recommendations of temples thats you must see whilst in Tokyo. There are so many I could mention, describe and insist that you see, but these are the most significant ones that will give you the greatest understanding of religious life in Japan. Two are based in central Tokyo, and the third in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture (a short 50min/hour long train ride from central Tokyo).
Meijii Shrine in Shibuya (right near Harajuku) is the most sacred Shinto sight in central Tokyo. Located within short walking distance of Harajuku station (JR Line) and the shopping of Omotesando Road the shrine considered one of the most important sights in Tokyo, and is a popular sight for religious pilgrims and foreign tourists. The shrine is located in the centre of a lush forest, filled with different trees and plants donated from all over the country. The walking route is mostly flat, meaning that it is an easily accessible location for most travellers, and (in my opinion) an excellent spot to visit on a warm summers day. Outside the temple there are vats of sake and wines famously donated by producers who wish for blessings for their harvest. The temple was destroyed during WWII bombings but has been rebuilt. The shrine is popular with Tokyoites as a perfect location for a traditional Japanese wedding. Those visiting may be lucky enough to see a wedding procession.
Tip: Located next to the shrine complex is Yoyogi Park, which in itself is popular destination for those hoping to spot hipster Harajuku dressed teenagers or local rockabilly groups on the weekends.
Senso-ji Temple located in Asakusa is a famous Shinto temple and considered a ‘must see’ sight in Tokyo because of its religious significance as the oldest temple in Tokyo, but also for its distinctive ornate architecture which makes it one of Tokyo’s most photographed sights. It is easily accessible by local transport. The temple, like the Meiji shrine, was destroyed during WWII but was rebuilt, and since has become a symbol of peace and renewal. The most popular elements of the temple to see and photograph are the gigantic paper lantern, the red main hall, the five story pagoda and the large incense holders.
The path leading to the temple is filled with street market vendors selling traditional sweets, local delicacies and every Japanese souvenir you could possibly desire. Prices here are, not surprisingly, slightly more expensive but the convenience factor is great for tourists on a strict timeline. I spent a few hours examining fans, postcards, pottery and clothing before going in search of food. There are many small lane ways surrounding the temple, most having a great selection of restaurants. I enjoyed being able to see the temple, then have a quiet bite close by.
Top hint: Stuck on what to do before or after visiting Senso-ji Temple. Located close by (across the road if memory recalls) there is a tourist info centre with english speaking staff. They have guides and maps to assist travellers.
Hase-dera Temple Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture.
An hour long train ride from central Tokyo takes you to Kamakura. Most visitors come here to see the Giant Buddha statue. However the highlight for me was this Buddhist temple, an unexpected treasure that I stumbled upon whilst returning to the train station. It is the areas surrounding the temple that impressed me the most. It has one of the most beautiful manicured traditional gardens to enjoy, whilst also being famous for its flowers. Amongst the gardens there is also the caves to explore. These dimly light tunnels are carved into the rock, and open onto small candlelight rooms filled with religious statues. Another key feature of the temple complex is the observation platform which looks out over Sagami Bay. A perfect spot for photos.