Today we are going to take a look at one of my favorite little hidden gems in Tokyo, Atago shrine. There’s really not that much to see at this centrally located shrine so it will be a relatively short post. That said, Atago shrine is a wonderful little natural respite from the insanity of Tokyo’s concrete jungle. While I wouldn’t say it is something worth going to check out on its own, if you’re visiting nearby Zojo-ji or Tokyo Tower then it’s only a few minutes away and well worth the extra effort.
Atago shrine was originally built in 1603 at the order of the legendary shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu and is located 26 meters above sea level on a small hill. During the Edo Period (1603–1868), the shrine had an impressive view of the city and served as a lookout for fires, the scourge of feudal Japan’s wooden cities. Appropriately Atago shrine is primarily dedicated to the Shinto god of fire, Homusubi no Mikoto, with the gods of water, mountains, and military prowess also being enshrined.
Nearby the shrine you’ll also find the NHK Museum which chronicles the history of Japan’s national broadcasting station. The museum opens at 9:30 AM and covers all the major media transitions spanning from radio and television to digital broadcasting. I myself have never ventured inside but if you’re into media studies it might be worth a look as admission is completely free.
Getting to Tokyo’s Atago Shrine
Atago shrine is located in the center of the city in the wealthy expat neighborhood of Atago. Here’s a map to help you find your way. The shrine is located at the top of of a small hill and can be reached via a lengthy set of stairs. According to legend, a young samurai ran his horse up the stairs once to deliver a message and it took almost an hour to get the poor thing down. Should you not be up for the challenge, there is alternatively an elevator nearby that will take you to the top of the hill.
As mentioned before this isn’t really something you’d go check out in and of itself but makes a good addition to Tokyo Tower or Zojo-ji. That said those coming by train will find either Kamiyacho on the Hibiya Line or Onarimon on the Mita Line to be the easiest points of access. Which is more convenient for you will depend on where you’re coming from so be sure to check Hyperdia or a similar service for the best route.
Attractions Near Tokyo’s Atago Shrine
As previously mentioned, Atago shrine is not a site I would recommend going out of your way to see as there is little else in the immediate vicinity to take in. Nevertheless the aforementioned Zojo-ji temple complex is relatively close by and is home to one of several Tokugawa funeraries in Tokyo. The temple is also located next to Shiba Park which provides for a leisurely stroll and has its own small Toshogu shrine to check out. Lastly, those who don’t mind being around swarms of tourists might also consider visiting Tokyo Tower.