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Nogi Shrine – a beautiful home for a hero

I discovered Nogi Shrine in a roundabout way.  Many years ago, I enjoyed a pleasant walk through Aoyama Cemetery with a friend.  She knew I liked military history and pointed out one grave.  It was for a general, Maresuke Nogi.  He fought during the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-1905 and, years later, committed suicide.  He was a national hero at that time and is still revered today.

red torii gates at Nogi shrine

His biography is extremely extensive.  I won’t go into it here as I’m a photographer and not a historian.  But, you should know why he has a shrine.  After the death of the Meiji Emperor in 1912, he committed junshiJunshi was the practice of ritual suicide to follow a leader into the afterlife.  Even back then, it shocked Japan.  Some people thought the act antiquated and unnecessary.  Others thought it was the supreme act of loyalty.  The general’s supporters created a group to have a shrine built for him.  It opened in 1923.  

Nogi Shrine

The shrine is beautiful and quaint.  It has everything you’d expect.  There are torii gates, lanterns, and the general’s house.  On weekends you might even see a wedding.  The grounds are small, though.  You can get some good photographs, but Nogi Shrine doesn’t compare to the much larger Meiji or Sensoji.  

Yes, you can see the general’s house.  It opens a few times a year, so you might be limited to viewing it from the outside.  The building is small, but it’s lovely with its garden.  If you visit in early summer, you’ll enjoy its hydrangeas.

small shinto shrine

There is one thing that astounds me about the shrine.  Trees surround the place.  Once you enter, you might think you teleported out of Tokyo!  You can see a few tall buildings outside, but you might think you are in a forest.

old Japanese architecture

A brief history of Nogi Shrine

  • Upon the death of Emperor Meiji, General Nogi and his wife Shizuko commit suicide in their house.
  • In 1913, Tokyo mayor Baron Yoshio Sakatani establishes the Central Nogi Association.  Its aim is to build a Shinto shrine for the souls of the general and his wife.
  • The shrine opens on November 1, 1923
  • Air raids on May 25, 1945, destroy the buildings.
  • Rebuilding in 1962
Nogi Shrine general house
The general’s house.

Photography at the shrine

  • Nogi is the best-kept shrine I’ve ever seen in Tokyo.  The staff work hard at keeping it in tiptop condition.
  • The general’s house and stables date from the Meiji period.  It gives you a chance to photograph some old architecture.
  • In the garden, hydrangeas bloom in summer.
  • If you are lucky, you might be able to photograph a Japanese wedding procession.
  • A short row of torii gates
  • If you want to do sunset photography, be aware that the gates close at 5 pm.  That limits those shots to mid-winter.
large stone lantern at Nogi Shrine

Where is Nogi Shrine?

The shrine is near Nogizaka Station, on the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line.  Leave via the number one exit, and the shrine entrance will be on your left.

Here is a Google map:

Opening hours

The shrine is open from 6 am to 5 pm.  

Admission costs


Other photo spots near Nogi Shrine

Wrapping up

I enjoy visiting Nogi Shrine.  It is small but gorgeous.  The problem is finding things to photograph.  It’s not like Meiji Jingu, where you can walk in and easily find pictures.  You’ll need to think.  Walk around and look at things from different angles.  In the end, you should have enough images to take home with you.

So why go?  Well, General Nogi is a significant figure in modern Japanese history.  That is reason enough in m book!  The other is that it won’t take up your whole day.  That makes it a great shrine to put on your Tokyo trip itinerary if you have limited time.

horse stables

If you know anything about this place, please share!  And for those of you with questions or comments, leave those below.

2 thoughts on “Nogi Shrine – a beautiful home for a hero”

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