Asagaya Shinmeigu Shrine

Tokyo, Japan | C.1190

Photo Credit: Chiemi Arita

Near the chaotic confines of a busy railway station in Tokyo, the Asagaya Shinmeigu Shrine offers an oasis of peace and serenity. With origins dating back over one thousand years, the ancient Shrine provides a calming setting for worshippers and performance artists to congregate for ceremonies and celebrations.

It is said that when a clan of villagers traveling home from an expedition in the east needed to rest, they took refuge in the shallow valley of the Taoyuan River. The area where they rested was known as Asagaya Village and they built the Shinmeigu Shrine. Late in the 12th century, the Shrine’s landlord Yokoi Hyobu traveled to the Ise Grand Shrine where he received the spirit of God. When he returned, he brought back a spirit stone and placed it at Shinmeigu.

The spirit stone still remains in the main shrine of Shinmeigu today. Given its close proximity to the JR Asagaya Station, the Shrine is often filled with worshippers — up to thousands of them at a time – and has also emerged as a popular spot for street performers and bands to play music.

Along with the abundance of artists and musicians, parishioners regularly congregate to celebrate festivals at the Shrine. During the annual Kanokai festival, Shrine members perform dances and sing songs among the beautiful cherry blossom trees on the grounds. Truly a hidden gem, the Asagaya Shinmeigu Shrine offers a bit of old world tranquility among the everyday bustle of modern-day Tokyo.

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