Kanda Myojin Shrine: A 1300-Year-Old Power Spot in Tokyo


2020.09.01

NAVITIME TRAVEL EDITOR

The head of 108 Tokyo districts including Akihabara and Uogashi (fishmarket), Kanda Myojin Shrine has a rich history of over 1,300years where it enshrines three major kami (deities or spirits of Shinto religion) dedicated to success in business, marriage, prosperity and happiness. It is said that this shrine has once protected the whole of Edo (old Tokyo) from harm. Today, many visit the shrine not just as a popular power spot but also as a venue for cultural exchange where tradition meets the innovation at EDOCCO (Edo Culture Complex) where it embodies the traditional charm of the city’s Edo period heritage, located within the premises.

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    Kanda Myojin Shrine

    A historic Shinto Shrine, Kanda Myoujin Shrine was founded in 730, though it was originally located near the Imperial Palace in Chiyoda-ku region. Its present site dates back from 1603, when the 2nd shogun, Tokugawa Hidetada expanded Edo Castle and moved the shrine to the Kanda area. The shrine is relocated on the northeast side seen from Edo Castle on the front side demon gate called the “Omote Kimon'' in Japanese, to protect the castle from any harm. While on the southwest back gate, called “Ura Kimon'', Hie Jinja Shrine in Akasaka is located. Painted in vermillion, the gate to Kanda Myojin Shrine, which stands at the entrance is called the “Zuishin Gate '' with two gatekeepers called the “zuishin” on its sides. On its right is the Toyo-Iwamado-no-kami and the other, Kushi-Iwamato-no-kami. These two gatekeepers are the kami (deities or spirits of Shinto religion) of the gates who protect the shrine with a sword, a bow and an arrow from the invasion of the demons.

    Entering into the shrine from the gate, a very spacious ground appears with the main hall on its end. This main hall was designated as a National Cultural Property in 2003. Unfortunately, the hall was destroyed in the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, but it was rebuilt in 1934. At that time, using concrete instead of wood as most shrines do, to rebuild the shrine was revolutionary. In Japan, it is a custom to take off shoes before entering the building. However, to prevent any dirt from entering the house, there is a corridor between the entrance and the room which is like an outdoor space, but it is inside called “doma”. Here at Kanda Myojin Shrine, it is called the “Ishi-no-Ma”, literally translated as the “stone room”. Forseeing the future where Japan will be globalized and time will come when worshippers do not take off shoes, the hall was built not with concrete but also with a “doma”. Having this "doma" gives a choice to the visitors, either take off shoes and go up or stand there and worship the kami (deities or spirits of Shinto religion) Compared to wood, concrete buildings last longer, and therefore, this shrine can be preserved for future generations.

    Ishi-no-Ma (doma/corridor) right before taking off shoes to go up inside the shrine

    Ishi-no-Ma (doma/corridor) right before taking off shoes to go up inside the shrine

    Although the shrine is rebuilt with concrete, it still keeps its Gongen style which is a style of architecture that was used to build shrines. This style features extensive lacquer work and ornate carvings. Because the shrine is built with concrete, the two pillars weren’t necessarily to keep the shrine firm, however, to maintain its Gongen style, the two pillars were added.

  • There are three major kami (deities or spirits of Shinto religion) enshrined including two of the seven Kami of Fortune: Daikokusama, who presides over bountiful harvests and matrimony; and Ebisu, the kami of fisheries and business and the last being the Taira no Masakado who is said to protect people from misfortune.

    Daikokusama, the kami of fortune

    Daikokusama, the kami of fortune

    Ebisu, the kami of fisheries and business

    Ebisu, the kami of fisheries and business

    Taira no Masakado, protect people from misfortune

    Taira no Masakado, protect people from misfortune

  • 03

    Auxiliary and subsidiary shrines

    In addition, there are several “sessha” (auxiliary) and “massha”(subsidiary) shrines in the premises that symbolize industries in Japan, mainly focused on finance and fishery. There are no explicit definition nor regulations as to distinguish between “sessha” and “massha” shrine. However, the term “sessha” in general is used to refer to a shrine of smaller scale that exists as auxiliaries under the management of a larger main shrine. Usually, this shrine represents a local land tutelary “Jinushi-gami” or other shrine with close ties to the main shrine. While then, “massha” (subsidiary) shrine is anything that doesn’t fit into the category of “sessha” shrine.

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    Festivals

    In May every odd-numbered year, Kanda Myojin Shrine partake in the festivities of the boisterous Kanda Matsuri that is widely regarded as one of Japan's three greatest festivals. The parade kicks off and ends at the shrine, passing through central Tokyo districts like Nihombashi and Otemachi.

  • 05

    Online Special Events

    Bon festival dances are held every evening during the annual summer event “Kanda Myojin Shrine Noryo Festival”. Due to covid pandemic, this year, this festival will be done online on the world famous Animal Crossing game. This festival will be held between August 28 till September 30th 2020 and via the web page, players can download Kanda Myojin Shrine original costumes, my designs, and even practice the bon festival dance. This will be a great chance to acquire Nishiki-e (multi-coloured woodblock printing used in Ukiyo-e) on your my design. Check here for more details.

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    EDOCCO (Edo Culture Complex)

    Unlike any other shrines in Japan, Kanda Myojin Shrine is very diverse and internationally friendly. On the premise of the shrine, the multipurpose complex, EDOCCO was opened in 2018 as a place to introduce traditional culture as well as a hub to create new traditions. This complex is a facility with five floors, and at “EDOCCO STUDIO” on the basement floor, foreign visitors can enjoy various workshops including traditional entertainment such as comic monologue “Rakugo”, salon entertainment “Ozashiki-gei”, traditional Japanese/Edo cultures including kimonos and foods and also, but most importantly, a guided tour on the etiquette of visiting a shrine.

    EDOCCO SHOP IKIIKI on the ground floor is a perfect place to buy unique souvenirs including original goods of Kanda Myojin Shrine. Out of many original goods, “Kanda Myojin Ginger Ale” is a unique drink in hope to send best wishes to those presented with this gift. The reason behind this is mentioned through its product name; Kanda Myojin Ginger Ale. This name was made because the shrine played on words as the Japanese word for shrine (jinja) sounds the same as the spice, ginger. And the Japanglish, “ale” is said to come from “yell” which means to send best wishes/wish for good luck. So, putting those two words, “ale (yell)” and “jinja(ginger) '' together, the name of this drink can be interpreted as Kanda Shrine giving/sending best wishes.

    Kanda Myojin Ginger Ale

    Kanda Myojin Ginger Ale

    In preserving the shrine’s philosophy, there are modern takes on the charms in collaboration with different anime/manga together with the standard lucky charms in all shapes and sizes. These are sold adjacent to the shop. On the shop’s right side, there is EDOCCO CAFE where they offer various jaw dropping Japanese sweets and food.

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    Fun Facts

    There are few golden waterfowls nesting on the roof of the main hall. This bird is believed to be a symbol to protect the town from fire and was placed on the roof sometime after 1934. Itts charming round shape is being favored by many. The charms shaped with these waterfowls are one of the best sellers. Aside from it, there are phoenix on the roof of the Phoenix Hall (Hou-ou-den) which is believed that these waterfowls are the caretakers of the phoenix.

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