Kanda Jinja (also known as Kanda Myojin) is one of Tokyo’s oldest Shintō shrines.
Founded in 730, the shrine was originally located in Chiyoda-ku, near the Imperial palace; it was moved to its current location in 1603, when Tokugawa Ieyasu moved the Japanese capital from Kyoto to Edo (now Tokyo).
The shrine’s entrance is unassuming–in fact, you could easily miss it if you didn’t know what you were looking for.
The torii that marks the official approach stands on a downtown street, between a pair of buildings.
The shrine’s main entrance gate sits just beyond the torii.
If you visit, don’t rush past the gate too quickly. It’s a work of art, covered with colorful, highly detailed carvings:
and spectacular finials:
Beyond the gate lies the shrine’s main yard. (The building at the far end is the worship hall.)
Although the shrine sits smack in the middle of Tokyo, not far from busy Ueno Park, the yard is far more silent than I expected. Kanda Shrine feels like a peaceful oasis, tucked away between the busy streets.
During the Edo Period, Kanda Shrine was considered the tutelary shrine of all Edo–the kami (deities) enshrined here are believed to watch over businesses, marriages, and families, ensuring prosperity in these endeavors and protecting people from accidents and illness.
During the Meiji Period, Kanda Shrine was considered the official guardian shrine of Tokyo. The entire shrine was rebuilt in 1923, after an earthquake. Most of the buildings survived the firebombing of Tokyo in 1945, although some of them were rebuilt (and all were refurbished) after the end of World War II. The shrine had another facelift in 2005, which brought it to its current, beautiful condition.
When visiting Japan, and particularly in Tokyo, I like to visit as many shrines and temples as possible, especially shrines like Kanda Jinja that don’t appear on the “top ten” tourist lists. A huge amount of Japanese history lies in shrines like these, which are important to Japan even though the tour buses often pass them by.
Like many other things in life, the unexpected, small adventures in Japan are often great sources of history, beauty, and enjoyment.