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Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Yushima Tenjin Tokyo

湯島天神

Yushima Tenjin

I was at Yushima Tenjin Shrine last weekend on a beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon. The shrine is in Yushima (literally "Hot Water Island") just south of, and adjacent to, Tokyo's Ueno district.

Yushima Tenjin is one of Tokyo's oldest Shinto shrines founded way back in the 5th century A.D. It sits at the top of a slope that requires just a little exertion when the weather warms up. But it is only about 150 meters from Yushima subway station.

Yushima Tenjin is a typical Shinto shrine in almost every way, with its torii arch and its shaden architecture, but on the other hand it is a thoroughbred of shinto shrines with its enchanting main shrine building, and beautiful life-size bronze statue of a nadeushi cow near its temizuya purification font. There are charming sculptures of scenes from Japanese legend on the covered walkway at the back of the shrine.

Yushima Tenjin

It is also of special significance in the Tokyo area as the region's foremost shrine of scholars. Since the 14th century it has enshrined the spirit of the ancient bureaucrat-scholar Michizane Sugawara, and since then it has become the place where students come to pray for examination success. There is a special tradition of writing one's academically inclined wish on an ema votive tablet and hanging it on the rack in front of the shrine.

Yushima Tenjin is a charming sightseeing spot, full of trees, with a small Japanese garden, that is generally not overly crowded, and takes only about 20 or 30 minutes to take in.

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