Kanda Myojin – a shrine photo guide

Kanda Myojin shrine
The main prayer hall.

Kanda Myojin is about 1300 years old, making it one of Tokyo’s oldest shrines. I love it for three reasons. One is the beautiful buildings. Another is its cherry blossoms. The last is the diverse crowd of worshippers. It has a wide range of subjects for photographers. Every day someone with a camera will be there.

Kanda Myojin shishi lions
Decorative shishi lions.

First, let’s talk about the people who pray there. Kanda Myojin is “the” shrine for business people in Tokyo. On occasion, companies will staff to pray. Go on a working day, and you will see many people in suits. What attracts them to Kanda Myojin?

Two of the enshrined deities are  Daikoku and Ebisu. Both have extensive heavenly portfolios. But they have one thing in common – they are gods of business! They are often together because they bring good luck! In the courtyard are two enormous statues of them. And that is why this shrine is a Mecca for business people.

The third deity is Taira no Masakado, a samurai. He was executed for trying to overthrow the Emperor in 940. Due to the level of respect he commanded, the government enshrined him at Kanda Myojin. His spirit is said to watch over the area. A legend says that neglecting him will see Tokyo affected by ill fortune. As no one wants anything to happen to the city, the shrine is well-maintained. Unfortunately, he didn’t get a statue in the courtyard.

As for the location, Kanda Myojin is near Akihabara. That is the capital of animation, IT/computing, and idol groups in Japan.  So if those people feel the need to pray, they only need to walk a short distance. And as a bonus, some ema (votive tablets) have animation themes. There are even omamori (protective amulets) for IT-related things.

And one last thing!  In front of the shrine is a shop. Its name is EDOCCO, which is short for Edo Culture COmplex. If you want souvenirs, they’ll have you covered.

A brief history of the shrine

Kanda Myojin was founded in 730 CE, making it one of the oldest shrines in Tokyo. In the Warring States Period (1467 – 1603), Dokan Ota and Ieyasu Tokugawa worshipped there. Tokugawa visited more often after winning Sekigahara, which made him shogun.

Eventually, the shrine became very popular, and the general population started praying there. Everyone referred to it as the “Guardian of Edo.” During the Tokugawa reign, the Kanda Festival became an important event.

In the Meiji Era, the shrine became designated as one of the twelve protectors of Tokyo. The main hall burnt down during the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 but was later rebuilt. In 2003 the government named it a National Tangible Cultural Heritage site.

Komainu lion dog on rock
A guardian Komainu lion dog on a rock.

What can you photograph at Kanda Myojin?

  • Architecture (Kanda Myojin is one of, if not the best shrine in Tokyo for photography).
  • Cherry blossoms (in spring).
  • Ema (votive tablets).
  • Statues of Daikoku and Ebisu.
  • Zuishin gate

Photography tips

Try going after the sun goes down! This place is gorgeous at night. Only the main hall and gate light up, but it’s enough! Click here to see my pictures of it after sunset. The lights stay on until 11 p.m. Make sure to pack a tripod.

Kanda Myojin Zuishin gate
The Zuishin gate.

Kanda Myojin details

See the shrine’s location and opening hours on the official website.

Photo spots near Kanda Myojin

Wrapping up

For me, walking around the shrine is a happy way to spend a couple of hours. I love its architecture, with so many great roofs to photograph! At Kanda Myojin, it pays to be inquisitive. If you ever go there, look in the nooks and crannies, you’ll find some interesting and surprising things too.

As mentioned earlier, it’s a good idea to look at the racks where people hang their ema. Most shrines have unique designs, and this one is no different. On my last trip, they had a science-fiction one and another from the popular anime, Love Live! They seem to change regularly.

ema votive tablets
Love Live! ema (votive tablets).

Photographers will enjoy spending time at Kanda Myojin as there is so much for them. And with many other photo spots nearby, you have many options to fill out your day. You can’t go wrong with this shrine.

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