Dec 10, 2013

Let's go to temple & shrines! : Nezu Shrine (Tokyo)

Hi everyone!

If you are not particularly interested in Japanese traditional culture, almost all the shrines and temples may look the same, or similar, to you. Most of my students cannot even tell which one is temple and which is shrine.

I'm not blaming you at all. It is natural. I still remember an American guy said to me, "When I saw a gorgeous temple or shrine for the first time, I thought wow, it's great. But after visiting two or three, I was getting tired. They are the same anyway. Now I think you should not visit more than two temples or shrines on the same day."

Well, I agree. One per day is probably enough, but there are so many interesting shrines and temples worth visiting. Even today these religious places are considered as power spots. If you are a spiritual person, you may feel something.

Unfortunately I'm not very religious person and don't care about spiritualism either. Even so, I feel like visiting such places occasionally to wish happiness and health for someone, or for no special reason.

The other day, I visited the Nezu Shrine in Tokyo, well-known for the big festival that takes place in September. It is also famous for its azalea garden and many people come and see the flowers in April and May, but usually the shrine is very calm and quiet despite its historical value.

This is the torii gate of Nezu Shrine. Torii is built at the entrancence of the shinto shrine to mark a sacred precinct. If you see a structure like this, the place is not a Buddhist temple but a shinto shrine.

Shinto is Japanese indigenous religion that worships holy spirits or deities called "kami." In Shinto they say there are 8 millions of kami in this world, implying there are too many to count. It resembles Greek myth a little, but not all the shinto dieties take human forms. In many cases they are the spirits of ancestors, or even just concepts important to people such as fertility and prosperity, therefore invisible.        

The main shrine building of Nezu Shrine was built at the present location in 1706 by order of the fifth Tokugawa shogun Tsunayoshi. 

The deity enshrined there is Susanoo no Mikoto, the rowdy god of  storm. According to the myth, Susanoo is a brave hero who successfully killed Yamata no Orochi, the eight-forked serpent which was devouring villagers. Many ancient warlords worshipped this deity and prayed for the victory in wars. It is believed today that you'll be protected from evil spirits after visiting this temple.

This is the image of Suranoo no Mikoto. Looks a little like a hippie though...

Actually, while vast urban area in Tokyo was burnt down by the Great Tokyo Air Raids in 1945, this shrine miraculously survived, and it has been designated as the nation's important cultural property.  Some people say the shrine was able to keep off  bad luck by the protection of the deity.

If you want to be protected from evil and disasters, why don't you buy a charm at the shrine? 

This "Romon" or two-story gate with a roof is also the country's important cultural asset.

In the precinct, there is another smaller shrine called Otome Inari, where Uka no Mitama no Mikoto (what a long name!), a god of crops and commerce, is enshrined. At Inari shrines, a pair of fox figures are placed, instead of komainu (guardian dogs).

As many merchants who worship this god of commerce have offered torii gates, some Inari shrines have a vermillion tunnel called Senbon Torii (thousands of torii gate) like this. Very mysterious looking...

1-28-9 Nezu, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo
tel: 03-3822-0753
5min. from Nezu or Sendagi station on the subway Chiyoda Line, or Todai-mae station on the subway Nanboku line.

From here I'll write in Japanese.



伝統的 でんとうてき traditional
文化  ぶんか culture
興味(きょうみ)がある  be interested in
寺 てら  Buddhist temples
神社 じんじゃ shinto shrine
違い  ちがい difference


見るべき (みる~) should see
時々 ときどき  occasionally
紹介(しょうかい)する  to introduce


根津神社  ねづじんじゃ  Nezu Shrine
行われる  おこなわれる  to take place
満開  まんかい  to be in full bloom
つつじ  azalea
庭  にわ  garden
有名  ゆうめい  famous
普段  ふだん  usually
静か  しずか  quiet


場所  ばしょ  location
建てられる  たてられる  to be constructed
年  ~ねん year
将軍  しょうぐん  shogun
徳川綱吉  とくがわ つなよし name of the fifth shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate.


奉(まつ)られている  enshrined
神(かみ)さま  deity
嵐  あらし  storm
蛇 へビ  serpent
英雄  えいゆう  hero
災難  さいなん  disasters
お参(まい)りする to visit shrines
守(まも)る  to protect


乙女稲荷  おとめいなり  the name of the shrine
赤い あかい  red
鳥居 とりい
面白い  おもしろい interesting


  1. こんにちは、優子さん!

    Oh, the Nezu Shrine looks quite regal! And the Otomi Inari shrine has a vibrant red colour that stands out from the forest background. ^_^

    Hahahaha~ Susanoo Mikoto does have a lot of hair.... XD

    1. サマンサさん、こんにちは!あけましておめでとうございます(←意味はhappy new yearです)

      Oh, yes, he is very hairy, isn't he? My husband who starts losing his hair may be envious of him. haha.