This is a collaborative post.
Tokyo, which was largely influenced by Buddhism is known for having some of the most beautiful temples and shrines in the world. They have their distinct features and therefore, such a visit is well worth it. So, here is a list of must-visit temples and shrines in Tokyo to add to your itinerary! You can book your flights online through Cathay Pacific by clicking on the link.
Meiji Shrine is one of the most beautiful shrines in Tokyo, dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his consort, Empress Shoken. It is easily accessible, a 10-minute walk from the Harajuku Station. It was completed in 1920- eight years of the passing of the emperor but what you see here is not entirely an original structure because it was destroyed during WWII. The vast green space of the shrine premises allows you to walk leisurely, especially in the early mornings. Entry is through the Meiji Jingu Forest which makes it a stroll full of tranquillity. Therefore, you can see young couples and newlyweds taking photographs here. You can also visit the Meiji Jingu Museum, which has the items used by the emperor and empress, the carriage they used and some other valuables that were previously in the Meiji Shrine Complex.
Sensoji Temple is the oldest temple in Tokyo and that reason alone makes it a must-visit temple when you are here. It is easily accessible from Asakusa Station. Sensoji Temple was completed in 645 and there is an interesting story on how it came about. According to the stories of the locals, there had been two brothers who were fishermen, and they had discovered a statue of Kannon who is the goddess of mercy in the waters. They had put back the statue in the water but it always came back to them. So, a decision was made to construct a temple in the name of Goddess Kannon. You will be entering the Sensoji Temple through the Thunder Gate which has a very impressive architectural structure. This is the first gate in the temple and from here, a shopping street known as Nakamise unfolds in front of you until you reach the second gate, Hozomon. From here, you can enter the main temple complex and visit the five-storied pagoda which stands in grandeur.
Gotokuji Shrine, which is also known as the Temple of the Lucky Cat is another must-visit temple in Tokyo. It is located just a few minutes’ walks from the Miyanosawa Station in Setagaya. As the name suggests, this shrine is considered the birthplace of the Maneki-Neko, or the cats who are responsible for bringing in luck. According to the legendary stories, Ii Naotaka who was caught in a thunderstorm was invited by a cat who was living inside the temple with a paw gesture. After the death of Ii Naotaka, the temple was renamed Gotokuji, and since the cat saving his life was a sign of good fortune, the locals made cat figurines with a beckoning front paw, while naming them as “Maneki-Neko.” Although Japan is famous for both right or left paw rising cat figurines, Gotukuji Shrine takes pride in having right hand pawed lucky cats. You can see hundreds of such cats in the temple, and it a tradition to buy a cat figurine and make a wish. You can either leave it at the temple or take back home and wait to see whether your wish is being fulfilled! If it was fulfilled it is advised to return the lucky cat to the temple and to get blessings.
Yasukuni Shrine is more of a shrine with political significance because it is dedicated to Japan’s war dead. Completed in 1869, the Yasukuni Shrine commemorates the spirits of over 2 million people who lost their lives due to the war trying to restore the peaceful nature of Japan. You can see the names of these people along with the date and place of death in the form of written records at the shrine. It may seem like a historical visit rather than a religious one due to these reasons. However, a stroll in the nearby garden areas is well worth it because many cherry trees are blooming now and then to give a spectacular sight.
Zojoji Temple, located a 10-minute walk away from the Hamamatsucho Station, is the head temple of the Jodo sect of Japanese Buddhism and it is well worth the visit because of the strong connection to the Tokugawa family. The temple was originally built in the year 1393 but was moved to this location by Tokugawa Ieyasu in 1598. Later on, they identified the Zojoji Temple as their family temple. They came into power in Japan in the 17th century and continued to rule it from the Imperial Palace. Therefore, six of the Tokugawa shoguns are buried in the Zojoji Temple premises. You can also visit the museum in the basement of the temple to see the depictions of Tokugawa Mausoleum way before it was destroyed by WWII. These are displayed in the form of video demonstrations and you can also see a model of the buildings that were here before they were destroyed. The only surviving structure from the 17th century of the Zojoji Temple is the gate at the entrance which is known as Sangedatsumon.
Kanda Shrine, which is locally known as Kanda Myojin is a Shinto shrine located close to the Akihabara Station. Although the old temple complex dated back to 730, the Kanda Shrine at the present location dates to the 17th century, when Tokugawa Ieyasu moved it here in the Edo period. Today, thousands of devotees visit this shrine annually to receive blessings for businesses, marriage and good health. There are many statues here including the ones of Daikoku-sama, the god of family happiness, marriage and Taira no Masakado, a Heian period rebellious leader who is responsible for success in new beginnings. If you are here in May, you can see the festival of Kanda Myojin which is known as Kanda Matsuri (this happens every two years), originally held to celebrate Tokugawa Ieyasu’s victory at the Battle of Sekigahara, making it a new dawn for Japan with the Edo Period which lasted till the 1860s.