With hundreds of Shrines and Temples abound there is certainly no shortage of ones to visit while you're in the city of the Rising Sun. But let's face it you only want to see the best of the best as you don't have three months to visit every single one.
In light of this we have prepared for you the absolute essentials of Tokyo's Temples and Shrines. Some of them grand and sprawling and others quaint and charming, but all delightful.
Tokyo's premiere and world renowned shrine, not only is the Meiji a beauty to behold but it is massive, the grounds taking up over one square mile. Of course the Shrine itself only takes up a fraction of this space. The rest of the grounds (a heavily wooded forest) comprise a traditional teahouse and garden, Tokyo's best lily garden, two annex museums, an ancient self-pumping well and much more.
Read more about the Meiji Shrine
A well preserved city block of traditional Japan, the Sensoji Temple and environs exemplify the architecture and charm of old Tokyo. The temple and structures are so popular that they have become an icon of Japanese culture to the rest of the world. More than just a temple, the Sensoji hosts a full-on market, a five story pagoda and many peripheral shrines.
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Hidden away, deep in the backstreets of Ochanomizu lies one of Tokyo's most revered shrines, the Kanda Myojin. The shrine's rich history is only surpassed by its rich and vibrant design. True red and green are used liberally throughout the edifices. The shrine houses three main shrines as well as several other additional shrines, you can find them spread around the perimeter of the grounds each with their own distinct style and location.
Read more about the Kanda Myojin Shrine
Prevailing through the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and the fire bombings of WWII, the Gokokuji may be one of Tokyo's lesser known Temples, but it certainly earns its place as the most enduring and least 'renovated', as the majority of temples in the city had to be rebuilt several times due to said catastrophes. Upon inspection of the main hall you will see first hand the age and wear of this temple. The grounds themselves are quite large, featuring many buildings including a low tower, a pagoda and more.
Read more about the Gokokuji Temple
Not considered by authorities as one of Tokyo's top shrines for reasons unbeknownst to us, the Togo Shrine has the unique happenstance of having a traditional Japanese pond and garden, thus setting it completely apart from all other Shrines or Temples. Of course it does not have the scope and grandeur of larger said temples, but who says its size that makes a temple?
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Located just on the edge of the sprawling Yanaka Graveyard you'll find the Tennoji. Arguably the tidiest best kept temple in all of Tokyo. However people don't come to see the cleanly swept stone paths, they come to admire the massive bronze Buddha statue.
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Just a few minutes walk away from the Tennoji you'll find the Zenshoen Temple. At first glance it will look like your typical temple but with a larger multi-floored main hall. But as you walk forward you'll begin to see a glimmer of gold through the trees, and if you walk a little further the trees will reveal a towering 20ft golden Buddha statue. Standing tall it shines even on an overcast day.
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Swallowed up in the overbearing shadow cast by the Kanda Myojin Temple the Yushima Seido Temple (which is just across the street, and is literally in its shadow) often gets over looked for its next door neighbor. This temple's unique and stylish design sets itself apart from most others in Tokyo, dark black lacquered wood and green copper roofs give great contrast and aesthetics. The main hall's courtyard is also something to behold.
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Aside from the fact that this temple was indeed the site of an ancient battle, and that quarter-sized musket holes still dot the heavy wood gate, you should also visit this temple to admire its charming grounds and well kept structures, being one of the older temples in the area it is a great opportunity for a look into the past.
Read more about the Kyouji Temple
Just outside of Nishi Nippori Station, your first impression as you walk through the stone torii gate will be 'old'. Indeed this shrine exudes 'old' from every corner of its sprawling grounds, it even smells old. Don't let that turn you off though; like the Gokokuji and Kyouji it offers a unqiue window into the past.
Read more about the Suwa Shrine