A Shrine Was Built Where?

In bygone days Shinto shrines would have been found all over the area across which Tokyo now sprawls, but over the years many have succumbed to the encroach of urbanization.

Of course in older areas of the city there are still many standing in close to their original states, some of which are major drawcards for weekend visitors and tourists, particularly around festival times. Places like Meiji Jingu and Yasukuni Jinja (which you may remember from this post about the freakshow).

One also often sees miniature roadside shrines in many areas, both Buddhist and Shinto. The Buddhist shrines are usually simple wooden constructions, whereas Shinto shrines often include a Torii (the red “gate”) but often consist only of a simple construction squeezed into a narrow gap between new buildings or shops, although still comprising the necessary features to be classified as a shrine.

(click images to enlarge)

However in newer parts of Tokyo, especially the high-rise districts, shrines are very thin on the ground. The truth is that space is at a premium, and money is the main god for most. However while visiting an exhibition in a tall building recently I wandered up to the 7th floor to see the view and spotted this through the window:

(click images to enlarge)

Strictly speaking, this isn’t actually a shrine – according to the rules of the Association of Shinto Shrines, a shrine must be “On the earth, under the sky” which disqualifies anything on top of a building. Such constructions would be categorized as altars rather than shrines, generally used for the purpose of daily worship by a family or business.

Whether this building stands on the site of an old shrine or whether the addition was simply placed for the use of the building’s occupants I’m not sure. Nevertheless, it was quite reassuring to discover such a traditional installation in the middle of a commercial district, albeit invisible from street level.

Here’s a full street view from the window, in the viewing of which I spotted another such Shinto construction not 50 metres up the road!

(click to enlarge)

There are estimated to be around 90,000 Shinto shrines in Japan, varying in style but with many standard features. More information about such structures and categories can be found here and here.

It has also been traditional for families and individuals in Japan to make a small altar in their homes at which deceased family members are honoured; these obviously number in the millions across the country. However Shinto altars have been increasingly supplemented or replaced by Buddhist altars in modern Japan.


~ by JapanGasm on 17 November, 2011.

One Response to “A Shrine Was Built Where?”

  1. […] A Shrine Was Built Where? (japangasm.wordpress.com) Share this:FacebookEmailPrintLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. Categories: Activities | Tags: Bell, First, Japan, New Year, Pagoda, Shrine | Leave a comment […]

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