Yushima Tenjin - a shrine for flower lovers

Yushima Tenjin shrine main hall
Yushima Tenjin's main worship hall.

Yushima Tenjin is another of Tokyo’s important shrines. You’ll find it in Bunkyo Ward. It isn’t big, but it is famous for its flowers in spring and autumn. The architecture is quite impressive too. For photographers, this place should be on their bucket list.

The shrine’s flowers are a huge drawcard. Visitors come for the plum blossoms and chrysanthemums. When either, photographers will come from near and far!

Yushima Tenjin has other attractions. One is its ema. Yes, these little wooden tables are an attraction, believe it or not! Another is a treasury museum. Let’s talk about its history.

Yushima Tenjin kengai Chrysanthemums
Kengai chrysanthemums in autumn.

A brief history of Yushima Tenjin

The shrine was initially dedicated to the god, Ameno-Tajikarao-no-Mikoto. He is the kami of sports and strength in 458. In 1355, another joined him.

And that one was Sugawara no Michizane. He was a 9th-century scholar, poet, politician, and diplomat. These days, he is a patron of students, which is why those ema are at the shrine. It is said he had a great love of plum blossoms, which is why they fill the garden.

What can you photograph at Yushima Tenjin?

  • Plum blossoms in spring (2022 pictures here), along with tea ceremonies in the garden.
  • Chrysanthemums in autumn (2021 pictures here).
  • The Gongen-zukuri style architecture and copper roof.  
  • Komainu guardians and wooden sishi (guardian deities) are around the shrine.
  • Bulls! Yes, there are bulls and oxen. Michizane was born in the year of the cow. One pulled his funeral bier! They are considered to be his messengers. Many people believe that the statues can cure ailments and make them smarter. You’ll always see someone giving them a touch on the head.
  • Remember the ema? They’re all around the shrine, hanging off symbolic trees. When people need divine help, they write their dreams or wishes and hang them on the “trees” around shrines. And as Michizane is a kami of study, most are requests to him. Students request him for help in passing tests. During exam season, these things are stacked many deep!
  • The shrine has a treasure museum. While you can only use cameras in the foyer, you can get close to one of the mikoshi. Mikoshi are portable shrines used at festivals.
shrine wooden shishi lions
Shishi lions.

Yushima Tenjin details

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

ema votive tablets and plum blossoms
Ema votiva tablets for the god.

Photo spots near Yushima Tenjin

Wrapping up

For photographers, there is a lot to photograph at Yushima Tenjin. You only need to walk around the grounds, and things will be popping out at you. And with its Gongen-style architecture, it is lovely.

Spring and autumn will be the best time for most people. The flowers transform the grounds into a colorful and lively place. If you want to see a similar shrine, check out Kameido Tenjin (but it also has pools and wisteria). It is also dedicated to Michizane.

Yushima Tenjin can get quite busy, even on weekdays. But when the plum blossoms and chrysanthemums bloom, it overflows with people. So, I would plan for trips there in those seasons. At other times of the year, the flowers won’t bloom, so you’ll miss them, and the grounds will look empty!

Near the shrine is a shop for those wanting to buy their ema, omikuji, or other souvenirs. There is also a treasury room that costs ¥500. It has a lot of historical items on display. Unfortunately, nothing is written in English, which is a real pity.

Yushima Tenjin is a great place, and I highly recommend it. And Ueno is only a short walk away, so other interesting places are nearby. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.

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