Tokyo Guide To Must Visit Temples And Shrines

Tokyo has hundreds of shrines and temples to choose from; to help you with your planning I’ve created this list of must-see temples.

 

Sensoji Temple

In my opinion, the one temple or shrine you must see while in Tokyo is Sensoji. This temple packs a lot of punch, and it has the crowds to prove it. It’s located in the Asakusa district and you enter from the red Kaminarimon Gate into a bustling narrow street called Nakamise. This street is lined with vendors selling trinkets, street food and sweets. At the end of the street, towers the Sensoji Temple. Right next to it is a five story pagoda.

Personally, I like this temple more than the Meji Shrine (which tops most must-see shrine lists). Below is a video from my visit to this location and you’ll see why I like it so much.

How To Get There: Sensoji Temple is a few steps from Asakusa Station, served by the Ginza Subway Line, Asakusa Subway Line and Tobu Railways.

Hours: Main hall: 6:00 to 17:00 (from 6:30 from October to March) / Temple grounds: Always open

Fees: Free

Meji Shrine

Meji Shrine is located next to the beautiful Yoyogi Park and was founded in 1920 to commemorate the souls for Emperor Meiji and his wife Empress Shoken. A massive torii gate stands at the entrance of the Shrine leading to a long path that is shaded by beautiful trees. Meji Shrine is a very popular place for traditional Japanese weddings. Beyond the Shrine the massive grounds holds two annex museums,  a traditional teahouse and Tokyo’s best lily garden.

Bride and Groom Walk Through Meji Shrine
Bride and Groom Walk Through Meji Shrine

How To Get There: The approach to Meiji Shrine starts a few steps from Harajuku Station on the JR Yamanote Line or Meiji-jingu-mae Station on the Chiyoda and Fukutoshin Subway Lines.

Meji Shrine Hours: Sunrise to sunset / Meji Shrine Fees:  Free

Treasure House Hours: 9:00 to 16:30 (until 16:00 from November to February). Admission ends 30 minutes before closing time. / Treasure House Fees: 500 yen

Inner Garden House: 9:00 to 16:30 (until 16:00 from November to February). Admission ends 30 minutes before closing time. / Inner Garden Fees: 500 yen




Yushima Seido Temple

Most temples in Japan are Buddhist temples, Yushima Seido is the exception and happens to be a Chinese Confucian temple. This temple was established in Ueno by Hayashi Razan (1583 – 1657) and holds an important place in the founding of several major Japanese universities. Every spring Tokyo students come to Yushima to pray for good grades at exam time. The temple has a unique design, its dark black lacquered wood and green copper roof give the structure an understated grandeur.

photo credit: Yushima Seido @ Kanda via photopin (license)
photo credit: Yushima Seido @ Kanda via photopin (license)

How To Get There:  Ochanomizu Station and Shin-Ochanomizu Station are nearby.

Hours: 9:30 to 17:00 (until 16:00 in winter) 

Fees: Free (200 yen to enter the main hall on weekends)

 

Nezu Jinja Shrine

Nezu Jinja is a beautiful shrine that’s famous for its azalea garden, which hosts a yearly Festival in April for people to admire the azalea’s in full bloom. It also has elegant old buildings, landscaped grounds and has hundreds of torii gates that make tunnel like paths around the grounds  (a mini version of Fushimi Inari in Kyoto).

photo credit: Nezu Shrine Festival @ Bunkyo via photopin (license)
photo credit: Nezu Shrine Festival @ Bunkyo via photopin (license)

How To Get There: Five minute walk from Chiyoda Nezu Station

Fees: Free




Yasukuni Shrine

Yasukuni Shrine is dedicated to Japan’s war dead. The spirits of around two and half million people are commemorated at this shrine. This is an interesting shrine to see for its beautiful grounds, buildings, numerous statues and memorials and a small Japanese garden in the back of the grounds.

Yasukuni Shrine also has some controversy surrounding it. From the people commemorated at the shrine, 1,068 are considered to be war criminals, 14 of whom are considered to class A war criminals. As a result whenever heads of state visit this shrine China, Taiwan and South Korea issue protests.

Below is a video from my visit to Yasukuni Shrine.

How To Get There: Yasukuni Shrine is located a short walk from Kudanshita Station on the Hanzomon, Tozai and Shinjuku Subway Lines.

Yasukuni Shrine Hours: 6:00 to 18:00 (to 19:00 from May to August; to 17:00 from November to February)

Yasukuni Shrine Fees: Free

Yasukuni Museum: 9:00 to 16:30 (admission until 16:00)

Yasukuni Fees: 800 yen

 

Kaneiji Temple

Kaneji used to be one of Japans biggest temples and has a number of Tokugawa Shoguns (who rules Japan during the edo era) buried here. But this temple was mostly destroyed during the Battle of Uneo in 1868 and was never reconstructed. Today its partial remains are scattered throughout Ueno Park. The most important remains include a 5 story pagoda and Toshogu shrine (pictured below). Kaneiji Temple is located in a quiet neighborhood near the northwest corner of Ueno Park.

Toshogu shrine
Toshogu shrine

How To Get There: Located in Ueno Park. Ueno Park is just next to JR Ueno Station. Easiest access is provided by the station’s “Park Exit”.

Hours: 9:00 to 16:00

Fees: Free




Tennoji Temple

Tennoji Temple is blessed to be located in beautiful nature, giving it a serene tranquil feeling. It’s famous for a big bronze Buddha that dominates the main lawn. This temple also has an interesting history. At its height, during the edo period, this used to be a large complex of temples. It was particularly popular with the locals because it ran the biggest public lottery in country. The lotteries used to attract rowdy crowds and troublemakers. It’s hard to imagine the chaotic scenes now, given the serene quiet the shrine exudes.

Tennoji Buddha
Tennoji Buddha

 

Shofukuji Temple

Shofukuji Temple is Tokyo’s oldest remaining wooden structure dating back to 1407 and is considered to be one of the best surviving examples of Kamakura architecture. It’s one of two buildings designated as a national treasure in Tokyo. This is a must visit site if only for the history that this temple represents.

Shofukuji Temple

How To Get There: Shofukuji Temple can be reached in a short walk from Gion Station, one station from Hakata Station by subway (100 yen one way). Alternatively, from Hakata Station it is a 15-20 minute walk to the temple.

Hours: Always open

Fees: Free