Me to my friend (in Japan as a tourist) : So what are your plans over the weekend.
Friend : I wanna go Kyoto!
Me : What in Kyoto are you planning to see
Friend : The Torii, gates (FUSHIMI INARI TORI), Kinkakuji, etc etc etc.
Me : Well I can help you do the Torii experience in Tokyo itself!…
Friend : Show me!!!
Before I begin writing the photo-story, the word Torii (meaning entrance), just sounds so similar to the Indian Hindi word “Toran” which is usually erected at places of worship. I tried to find if they both are related and rightly so there is some debate ongoing on the same. Here is the Wiki Link. So there is indeed some possible Indian connection
I have worked at Akasaka Mitsuke in early 2000’s and also the neighboring Tame-ike-sanno area. On the new year the company’s CEO would take us all to the nearby shrine/temple for the Hatsumode, the first Shinto shrine visit of the Japanese New Year. That shrine was Sanno-Hie-Jinja in Tame-ike-sanno where there is a beautiful stairway through the small hill on which the shrine is located. The red structured gates, like in Kyoto Fushimi Inari Torii are donated by organizations giving thanks for their prosperity and in hope of good fortune in the future.
Sanno Hie Jinjya is an important shrine in Tokyo as it maintains the status as guardian deity of Edo-castle and the current imperial residence. The shrine was originally built on the ground of Edo-Castle in 1478 as a branch of the guardian shrine of sacred Mt Hiei in Kyoto, and moved to the present location on top of the hill of Nagatacho in 1659.
You can choose to either walk the steps up here through the main entrance
or more better use the newly constructed elevator on the right of the stairs
My friend was in literal disbelief to see this shrine right there in the middle of the metropolis with all the financial multinationals encircling it from all sides around. The Prudential building is in the background, but a very serene presence of the main temple inside the premises in the foreground.
The Sanno Hie Jinja
The guradians of the deity are monkeys called Sarugami who were popular in the Edo period at the entrance. Note the plum blossoms in February behind the statue!
Wash your hands and purify yourself before you meet the gods. The Hie Sanno Jinjya dragon is automated one. Just place hands in front of it and it starts to spurt out watter from his mouth. Technology influence for old traditions. Nice.
I get very nostalgic about this place due to my early 2000 experience of this shrine. The main shrine is in Shimane prefecture which is to enshrine the mountain god and I want to visit that one too some day.
We went to the backside once again where the stairs and the Torii are located and sat down to take in the beauty of the surrounding peaceful neighborhood away from the numbe crunching offices around us.
Having spent an hour we started to make our way walking down the stairs and closely observing all the company names printed on the Torii
Once out we made our way to the material world again to discharge our daily duties. But it certainly sets one at peace in the daily routine and makes for a catch up with our inner self albeit even for a moment…
My friend did go to Kyoto, but then the Torii experience was already done and he could slide in one more attraction the Kyoto Tower in the one day trip that he had planned. So next time in Tokyo do catch this experience and save a few bucks if this is the experience what takes you all the way to Kyoto.