Kameido Tenjin Shrine
Let the scent of wisteria take you back in time.
Built in 1661, Kameido Tenjin Shrine is located Tokyo’s Koto Ward in a sleepy, downtown area known as shitamachi (old area). The shrine is an integral part of local life, and you might be lucky enough to catch a Japanese wedding ceremony or blessings of pregnant women and newborns being performed.
The shrine, with its signature red bridge and scenic seasonal flowers, is also a place of worship for the Shinto god of learning. There are three bridges that lead to the main shrine. The bridges are said to represent life, with the onnabashi, literally translating to woman’s bridge, otokobashi (men’s bridge) and Hirabashi. The picturesque bridges represent the future, past and present, respectively.
Visit in winter, and you will see Japanese students braving the cold and feverishly writing on ema (wish boards), eager to ace their entrance exams and get accepted to their school of choice. Wish them a heartfelt “Ganbatte!” (“Good luck!”) to lift their spirits.
Visit in summer for Reitaisai, the main festival of the shrine held in late August every four years.
Kameido Tenjin Shrine is hidden on a tiny side street marked by a red pillars, and you won’t be able to appreciate its size until after you’ve ascended its staircase. Within the grounds of the shrine is a large pond connected by two rounded bridges, known as taiko bashi.
The kame in Kameido means turtle in Japanese, and you will see plenty of them sunbathing in the shrine’s pond. The pond itself is accented by two taiko bashi bridges. Stand on top of the bridge and take in the shrine’s architecture and wisteria trellises.
A picturesque temple with stunning views of Tokyo Sky Tree, Kameido Tenjin truly comes alive during Golden Week, a Japanese holiday every May, when its wisteria bloom for the Wisteria Festival. Be sure to bring your camera because the azalea shrubs compliment the pale color of the wisteria petals, giving you the perfect background for a selfie. Expect crowds during Golden Week, but rest assured that you will have ample opportunity to manoeuvre around the grounds day or night, as the wisteria is lit up at night for evening visitors.
While the shrine’s main festival is during Golden Week, Kameido Tenjin Shrine also has a Plum Festival in February, and Chrysanthemum Festival in October. Once you’ve toured the grounds of Kameido Tenjin, head to the nearby Japanese confectionery shop, Funabashiya, to try their famous kudzu mochi and other traditional sweets.
Dig Japanese history? Read more on where to find historic gems.