Endless Red Torii Gates
If anyone you know has been to Kyoto in their travels, you have almost assuredly seen their pictures of Fushimi-Inari. That’s the temple with a series of seemingly endless red ‘torii’ gates. It’s one of the most popular spots in Kyoto and is perfect Instagram shots. But for now, if Kyoto isn’t on your itinerary or you’re in Tokyo, we want to introduce Hie Shrine!
When coming to visit Japan, one of the biggest questions is how to allocate the limited time you have between the sprawling, limitless adventure that is Tokyo and any of the other amazing places that make up Japan. For most travelers, a ride on the shinkansen to get out to Kyoto is a must do, but if you only have a week or so in-country, it may not be enough time. In the future, we’ll break down how to get from Tokyo to Kyoto (or Nara, or Osaka, or Hokkaido, or Kamakura… there’s no shortage of spots).
Hatsumode in Chiyoda
‘Hatsumode’ is the Japanese tradition of visiting a shrine in the first few days of the New Year to wish for peace, prosperity, and good health. With Hie Shrine located between the government-heavy Chiyoda Ward and the business and high-end residential Asakusa Ward, this is a popular spot for politicians and business folks to celebrate the New Year. When we visited, it was very busy with long lines to toss coins in as an offering and to buy various ‘ema’ (wooden decorative boards), paper ‘omikuji’ (fortunes), and other ‘omamori’ (lucky charms). Hie Shrine also has an annual festival (‘matsuri’) on June 15th which would be a great place to observe traditional Japanese celebrations.
These offerings are available at the temple year round and it’s a great place to pick up a souvenir on your journey. At the entrance to many Japanese temples are two statues of ‘komainu’ or lion dogs, but Hie Shrine is unique in that their guardian deities are two monkeys that can be found at the entrance. So even though 2022 may be the Year of the Tiger, many of the souvenirs found here have unique monkey-inspired designs.
Until 1946, Hie Shrine was one of the most important and distinguished Shrines in Japan. Even though the original building was largely destroyed and rebuilt after the war, it remains a very important destination for Japanese worshippers. While welcoming of tourists, there was minimal English-language information and the ‘omikuji’ fortunes were only available in Japanese. It’s more common for places like Senso-ji or Meiji Jingu to provide offerings in multiple languages.
A Shrine in the Heart of Tokyo
One of the most fascinating elements of Tokyo is how in the center of one of the busiest cities in the world, there are beautiful shrines which can transport you to a peaceful oasis. Hie Shrine in the Chiyoda neighborhood near Japan’s National Parliament. Two massive Torii gates demarcate the busy street and the relatively calm grounds.
But the true start of the show is the staircase of red torii gates which has the dual effect of transporting one to Kyoto and of providing a great backdrop for IG-worthy shots. As you can see on the map of Hie Shrine (see below), the torii gates are located behind the main grounds and are easily accessed from the street when you go through the black torii gate.
Whether you’re going to make it to Kyoto or not, this is a great shrine to visit during your time in Tokyo and we recommend making time for a quick visit.
How To Get to Hie Shrine
With such a central location, it’s incredibly easy to get to Hie Shrine. It can also be a great place to start the day or to wind down your sightseeing before a meal in nearby Roppongi or Asakusa. The best way to get to Hie Shrine is to take Tokyo Metro to:
Tameike-sanno Station: Ginza Line, Namboku Line
Asakusa Station: Chiyoda Line
Akasaku-Mitsuke Station: Ginza Line, Marunouchi Line
Hie Shrine Visiting Hours
Hie Shrine is open daily from 6am to 5pm. The Gallery Museum is open from 10am to 4pm except for Tuesdays, Fridays, and occasional holidays or temple events.
Where to go from here?
Hie Shrine is a beautiful escape in the center of the city, but it’s unlikely to take more than 1 – 1.5 hours to enjoy everything that it has to offer. Fortunately, because of its excellent location you can use it as a jumping off point for the next part of your journeys.
Being located on the Ginza Line, it’s a direct shot to Shibuya. However, given Hie Shrine’s proximity to Roppongi, we recommend pairing your visit with an evening that you want to check out the famous nightlife district. Getting to Tokyo Midtown is an easy walk through Asakusa and there are a myriad of restaurants along the way to whet your appetite before checking out Roppongi by night.