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Kanda Myojin Shrine

Listed under Temples in Tokyo, Japan.

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Tucked away behind blocks of flats is one of Tokyo's largest shrines, a Shinto shrine to the kami (spirits) of more than 100 of Tokyo's neighbourhoods.

So the pocketed urban location makes sense then?

Yes, I suppose so, and it means that it's well frequented by worshippers who drop by in their own time for a few claps worth of quiet reflection and prayer – which is really a lovely way for a shrine to be used.

What does that entail then?

Worshippers enter through the toji gates and then the main gate, then wash their hands in the well on the left before approaching the main temple set at the top of some stairs. Large internal windows let people approach, drop their contribution into the dish take a few moments to compose their thoughts and prayers, clap loudly and carefully twice then finish up. There are monks or priests in the grounds, I saw them dealing with what I imagined to be a few couple's preparing for their weddings and you can buy charms from girls dressed in temple whites.

Are all the kami worshipped in the one temple then?

Good question, Kat, no there are other shrines beside and behind the main shrine to other kami, including on to the kami for agricultural prosperity, guarded by stone foxes dressed in red bibs.

What's the story with the foxes then?

They're protecting the cereal, namely rice crops - the red bibs I'm not sure of - I'll have to do some research but they're all wearing them, one was even wearing a little embroidered red jacket...

Thanks Kat, how will I find it then?

It's behind another shrine building and though you can't see it from the street you'll see the toji gate, when you walk up to it you'll know it's the right one because it's guarded by two giant carved archers. It's also ornately decorated and painted in the traditional style despite the fact that it was built after the end of the second world war.

What else do I need to know?

The bit in the photos that looks the grandest is actually the gate, the shrine is the planer one.

Make sure you look for the photos of the annual shrine procession. The ornate centrepiece, which looks like the 'Arc of the Covenant' from 'Raiders of the Lost Arc' is displayed behind glass on the left side of the main temple and is an eyeful of decorative colour on its own but even better carried by and surrounded by a procession of traditionally dressed drummers, monks and worshippers.

Written by  Kat Mackintosh.

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