Sprinkled throughout Japan’s capital are temples and shrines that uphold the a rich spiritual culture and provide ample opportunity to add to an already epic journey through one of the most remarkable cities in the world. These are just some of the temples and shrines you should add to your itinerary.

Photo by @the_passage
Photo by @the_passage

Meiji Shrine

Tucked away between the towering skyscrapers and sprawling concrete sidewalks of Yoyogi is the Meiji Shrine. Although the area is a young, thriving urban neighbourhood, the shrine is blissfully surrounded by the lush greens of Yoyogi park, and just a few steps from the neighborhood metro station on the Yamanote Line. Two 40-foot (12 meter) torii gates stand at the entrance, welcoming visitors to a shrine built for the late Emperor Meiji who ruled from 1867 to 1912.

Photo by @eeeeeeeno

Sensō-ji Temple

Built in 627 A.D., Sensō-ji is Tokyo’s oldest (and busiest) temple. Embodying an era from the past, the temple boasts stunning ancient architecture, as well as a long list of other attractions — the red pagoda-style structures and the Kaminarimon Gate, which both catch visitors’ attentions immediately, plus the gorgeous Kannon-do Hall and the bustling Nakamise-dori street. Finally, the magnificent Asakusa Shrine sits next to the temple  — as if you needed another reason to visit.

Photo by @eeeeeeeno

Nezu Shrine

Nezu Shrine is a beautiful Shinto shrine built in 1705, though, as legend goes, it’s rumored to have originally been constructed by Prince Ōsu in the first century A.D. The main entrances are lined with torii gates, creating a scenic spot to view classical Japanese architecture. This is another shrine in the city that doesn’t have an entrance fee and is easily accessed by public transport via the Chiyoda line to Nezu Station, which is just a few minutes walk from the shrine.

Tennō-ji Temple

Enshrined by a massive, bronze Buddha statue, Tennō-ji Temple is a must-see for anyone interested in visiting Tokyo’s many temples. Surrounded by cherry trees and a wooded cemetery, the temple’s environment is one of complete tranquility. Dating back to the 13th century, this site’s history is easy to experience as it’s only a five minute walk from the Nippori Subway Station.

Photo by Janice Tan
Photo by Janice Tan

Zōjō-ji Temple

The Zōjō-ji Temple’s notoriety originates with Kukai, the founder of the Shingon school of Buddhism. The temple is also a burial place for six Tokugawa shogunates, who were part of the last military government that ruled Japan between the 17th and 19th centuries. There is no admission fee to enter the temple and, while there, be sure to check out the small, basement museum that features important documents preserved from the damage of World War II.

Photo by @eeeeeeeno

Tsukiji Hogang-ji Temple

Following a city-wide fire in the 17th century, the Tsukiji Hogang-ji Temple was forced to undergo reconstruction, and did so just blocks from the popular fish market in Tsukiji. The relocation was by the then-shogunate (military dictator) at the time, which is a great example of how the ideologies Japanese temples and shrines represent have not always been peaceful. While visiting, you will find artifacts relating to Jōdo Shinshū teachings, which is the most widely practiced Buddhist philosophy in the country.

Kanda Shrine

While the Tsukiji Hogangi Temple was  re-positioned because of ideological conflict, the Kanda Shrine has been rebuilt  because of natural destruction in the form of fire and earthquakes. Kanda is a Shinto shrine — Shinto being the traditional religion of Japan, dating back to the eighth century. Today, the shrine is located in the Chiyoda ward of the city and is the host of the Kanda Matsuri and Daikoku festivals.

Cover Photo by @yaqbpl

Brad Donaldson is a writer and editor proudly based out of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Although his roots are in Canada, his desire to see more of the world frequently takes him away from home. His work, both as an editor and writer, has appeared in local newspapers and publications, most recently showcased through the co-founding of his former university's inaugural creative writing journal.