In the busy commercial neighborhood of Kamiyacho in Tokyo I came across these long, steep, ancient stone staircase.. Wondered what it was and saw the sign board, Atago Shrine. Hmm interesting, lets check it out. The stairs are really steep and I found it later that a Samurai climbed the steps on horseback to deliver plum blossoms to the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. He not only climbed the stairs on the horse but also rode it down hill, a feat that apparently took 40 minutes!!! The stairs are supposedly know as stairs of success (Shusse no Ishiden)
The Atago Shrine (愛宕神社 Atago Jinja) in Minato, Tokyo, Japan is a Shinto shrine built in 1603 on the order of Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. The location since is a hilltop, inthe olden days was supposedly the highest point in Edo and offered a good view for to watch for fires, and therefore the main Shinto god worshiped in this shrine is the fire god Homusubi no Mikoto.
A beautiful shrine right in the middle of the metropolis makes you forget for a moment that you are in Tokyo. We were greeted by this cat at the shrine entrance and it gave me this “what brings you here, oh and by the way we don’t know each other, why take my snap” look. The cat is just so cute.. I took a loads of snaps and a few seconds later the cat just went off ignoring me all together.
I was lucky to visit this place with the Sakura (cherry blossoms) flowers all around which gave the shrine a special oriental feel. The Torii (Gate) with the Sakura blossoms all around. The Shrine also has a beautiful pond which is one of the recommended see at the Shrine.
Stood at the entrance of the main hall of the shrine, prayed for a couple of moments. I was joined by a few salarymen back from their office and a few office ladies who had climbed the steep stairs and were paying their respects at the shrine.
The Atago Shrine has a pond in the premises which has some awesome landscaping of Japanese Garden around it a must see at the premises. Just see the Torii (Gate structure), the pond, reflections and Koi Fish swimming in trails in the water and stillness all around and you will certainly experience nothingness right in the midst of the BUSY metropolis. A spiritual oasis of our beautiful city.
The most interesting aspect of this shrine is a restaurant/cafe on the hill top premises!! This is a rarity but the small cafe/restaurant at the shrine is kind of a hideout not many people probably know of right in the blissful atmosphere of the shrine. I will come once with a few friends here for sure in the evening.
Today’s modern Tokyo has a lot of skyscrapers around and Atago is no longer the highest point of observation. Skyscrapers around it includes the Atago Hills Building which can be seen from the shrine premises as below.
I spent over an hour at the premises and had forgoteen the work stress of the day and was now awaiting a call from my friend who was to join me at nearby Indian restaurant Nirvanam for a South India dinner! Indian dinner, Japanese gardens, what a way to end the busy day in Tokyo metropolis.
Since my first visit I have repeatedly gone to this location and just spent some time to reenergize myself… Watching the lights in the skyscraper, I am reminded of the saying that
“Tokyo’s night beauty is courtesy of the overtime working salarymen”
Shinto Shrines are better visited at night due to illumination while Buddhist temples wear a desolated look in the evening. Atago Shrine is a Shinto Shrine and the light up in the evening is beautiful. Takes you back to the Edo times from an experience standpoint.
Atago Shrine is a short walk (around 5 minutes) from Toranomon Station or Kamiyacho Station.
|Hours:||10:00 – 15:00 (in the evenings too it’s accessible, only prayers are until 15:00)|
|Closed:||Open all 365 days|