Five must-see temples and shrines in Tokyo

Tokyo has a reputation as a city overflowing with cutting-edge technology, avant-garde fashion and world-class dining. But there’s also a plethora of temples and shrines brimming with history and culture. Here are five temples and shrines that offer peaceful repose amid the daily hustle and bustle.

Sensō-ji(浅草寺) 

You can’t walk past this temple without seeing tourists taking pictures in front of the iconic “Kaminarimon” (Thunder Gate). This ancient temple was founded in the year 628, making it the oldest temple in Tokyo, and is dedicated to the Bodhisattva Kannon, which earned it the nickname “Asakusa Kannon”.

With “Thunder Gate” at the main entrance – the “God of Wind” to the right and the “God of Thunder” to the left –Senso-ji features a statue of Kannon resting within the main temple, a gorgeous interior with lacquered floors as well as walls and doors lined with gold leaf, not to mention ceiling paintings.Just outside is a huge incense burner – fanning yourself with the smoke is said to improve and uplift your soul.

NakamiseStreet leading from “Thunder Gate” to the “Hōzōmon” (Treasure House Gate) is lined with about 90 different shops offering various souvenirs and sweets. The main temple, five-storied pagoda, Treasure House Gate and Thunder Gate are lit up every evening from sunset until 11pm. The main temple entrance is closed during the evenings. If you plan to visit at least one temple during your Tokyo stay, you can’t go wrong with Sensō-ji.

Address: 2-3-1 Asakusa, Taitō-ku, Tokyo111-0032
5-minute walk from Asakusa Station (Tokyo Metro Ginza Line)

Meiji Shrine (明治神宮)

Built in 1920, this shrine is dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken. The 70-hectare man-made forest was built by 110,000 young volunteers using over 100,000 pieces of lumber donated from all over the country. Talk about a group effort! It’s also known as a “power spot” that is said to be imbued with the sincerity of both the trees and humankind. Let your body and soul be purified as you stroll along the gravel path to the heart of the shrine.

Entry to the Imperial Garden costs 500 yen, but it’s worth it, especially in June when the Japanese irises are in full bloom. The shrine opens at sunrise and closes at sunset.

Address: 1-1 Yoyogi-Kamizonochō, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 151-8857
Right outside the South Exit of Harajuku Station (JR Yamanote Line)

Zōjō-ji (増上寺)

A temple with over 600 years of history that is famous as the family temple of the Tokugawa clan. Six shoguns and Imperial Princess Kazunomiya are interred here, among other historical figures. It is said that visiting this temple will bring you luck, so if you plan on having a go at the lottery, be sure to pay your respects here first! An heirloom exhibition room opened in April 2015; cost of entry is 700 yen (or 1,000 yen if you also wish to visit the Tokugawa tomb). This temple is only 10 minutes away from Tokyo Tower, so if you’re in the area, why not stop by?

Address: 4-7-35 Shibakōen, Minato-ku, Tokyo 105-0011
3-minute walk from Onarimon Station (Toei Mita Line)or Shiba Park
10-minute walk from Tokyo Tower

Jindai-ji(深大寺)

Built in 733, this temple houses ancient Buddha statues, a statue of Gautama Buddha, and countless other temple treasures and cultural artifacts. It is said that visiting the temple helps ward off evil spirits. Let the gushing springs and verdant green scenery soothe away your troubles. The temple grounds are lined with shops offering specialty Jindai-ji soba and various souvenirs. You can find the Jindai Botanical Gardens right next door, the biggest in Tokyo, and it only costs 500 yen to visit (open 9.30am-5pm), so why not kill two birds with one stone?

Address: 5-15-1 Jindaiji Motomachi,Chōfu-shi, Tokyo
Accessible by bus from Keiō Chōfu Station and Tsutsujigaoka Station, or Kichijōji Station on the Chūō- Sobu Line

Honmon-ji (池上本門寺)

The head temple of the Nichiren sect of Buddhism, it is said to be the sacred site where Nichiren himself died. It was built over 700 years ago and features 96 flights of stone stairs that open onto a sprawling temple interior that is over a whopping 231,000 square metres. It contains a five-story pagoda built in 1608 and recognised as an Important Cultural Property, not to mention a beautiful garden and plenty of other sights. Visiting this temple is said to bring wealth and fulfil your wishes! You can also sample the famous kudzu starch cakes sold in the shopping street in front of the station.

Address: 1-1-1 Ikegami, Ōta-ku, Tokyo 146-8576
10-minute walk from Ikegami Station (Tōkyū Ikegami Line)

Paying respects inside a temple is always a solemn affair, so bring your hands together in front of your chest and pray silently. At a shrine, do the same thing, but clap twice when you’re done. When in doubt, watch the locals and do what they do!

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