Days 1 to 3
Visiting Spiritual Locations in Tokyo
At the beginning of this journey you will visit Mt. Takao, a nationally famous power spot, which has a station near the trailhead for easy access. On Mt. Takao, there are places related to Shugendo (mountain worship), which is a fusion of Buddhism and Shinto, as well as temples enshrining legendary Tengu creatures from Japanese folklore. It is said that the summit of Mt. Takao can be reached relatively easily, but be sure to wear clothes that are suitable for mountaineering.
On the second day, you will visit the Meiji Jingu Shrine, which is a sacred place despite being located in the heart of Tokyo. This is a Shinto shrine that represents Japan and is dedicated to Emperor Meiji and the Empress Dowager Shōken, and here you can experience the spirit of the Shinto faith. You can also obtain a goshuin vermilion seal at the Kagura hall.
For the third day, you will tour the Japanese Sword Museum and learn about the lifestyle and culture of the different eras in Japan.
First, you will visit Mt. Takao, a notable spiritual and cultural spot in Tokyo. Mt. Takao is a sacred mountain that has been worshipped since the Edo period and which is dotted with power spots related to Shugendo (mountain worship), a fusion of Buddhism and Shinto. The "Takao-san Yakuo-in" temple is a must-visit stop, with its principle idols of the legendary Tengu
creatures from Japanese folklore. Surrounded by seasonal plants, here you can enjoy both true mountaineering and easy hiking. If the weather is nice, then you can also see Mt. Fuji from the peak, and every winter solstice the so-called "Diamond Fuji" phenomenon, when the sun sets just above Mt. Fuji, can seen.
55 minutes by train(non-JR lines)
5 minutes by train (JR)
Meiji Jingu Shrine
You can visit Meiji Jingu Shrine by walking from Meiji-jingumae Station or from Harajuku Station. Although located within Tokyo, the shrine has an extremely large site and you can enjoy the sacred atmosphere. Meiji Jingu Shrine is closely related to Japan's Imperial Family, and is a representative shrine of Japan that is dedicated to Emperor Meiji and the Empress Dowager Shōken. At the "Kaguraden (hall of Shinto music and dance)," located immediately next to the "Goshaden (main shrine)" in the center of the shrine grounds, you can obtain a goshuin
vermilion seal, which is a cannot-miss opportunity for individuals who collect these goshuin
vermilion seals. In addition, the "Meoto Kusu (a pair of camphor tree couple)" standing next to the main shrine, are popular as sacred trees for people searching for a partner or wishing to have a succesful marriage, and you can receive blessings for your marriage, for family safety, and for a harmonious marriage. The Goshaden main shrine is located some distance from the entrance, so bringing comfortable walking shoes is essential.
15 minutes by foot
30 minutes by train(non-JR lines)
Japanese Sword Museum and the Former Yasuda Garden
Japanese swords, which are loved not just in Japan but all over the world, are a weapon, an object of worship, and a symbol of authority. The Japanese Sword Museum is a place to deeply learn about their history and manufacturing processes, and it has many exhibitions featuring swords, sword decorations, sword fittings, and armor, etc., including national treasures. The museum is located in a corner of the Former Yasuda Garden, a beautiful Japanese garden, so use this opportunity to also walk through and enjoy the garden. Entrance admission to the Japanese Sword Museum is ¥1,000 for adults, and admission to the Former Yasuda Garden is free.
45 minutes by train(non-JR lines)
Days 4 and 5
Famous Places in Tokyo that Attract People's Worship
On days four and five you will visit famous places in Tokyo that particularly attract worship from people, and will also think of their history.
At Hatonomori Hachiman Shrine (fujizuka mound), you can pay reverence to Mt. Fuji while being in Tokyo. Mt. Fuji has been an object of mountain worship since long ago, and the fujizuka mound was created for those who cannot go to Mt. Fuji directly to pay reverence. Within the shrine grounds you can experience paying reverence to Mt. Fuji, and this shrine was born out of Japan's culture of imitation/representation worship.
Next, you will learn about Buddhism at Jindaiji Temple. The final stop on your journey in Tokyo will be Akasaka Hikawa shrine, where you can contemplate nature and culture by admiring the beautiful ceiling paintings and the large ginkgo trees that have watched over Tokyo for 400 years.
Hatonomori Hachiman Shrine (fujizuka mound)
Mt. Fuji has long been an object of mountain worship, but many people could not go directly to Mt. Fuji to pay reverence because of economic or physical problems. Taking inspiration from such people, "fujizuka" mounds or man-made representations of Mt. Fuji, began to be made all throughout Japan. For example, the fujizuka mound at Hatonomori Hachiman Shrine has a miniature version of the Fujisan Hongu Sengentaisha Okumiya (shrine on top of Mt. Fuji), which is surrounded by lava that flowed from Mt. Fuji, and the "Kinmeisui/Ginmeisui" is the mysterious water that appears at the peak of Mt. Fuji - both of these are reproductions that are close in shape and form to that of the real Mt. Fuji. You can walk to Hatonomori Hachiman Shrine from Sendagaya Station, Kokuritsu-Kyogijo Station, or Kitasando Station.
25 minutes by train (JR)
20 minutes by bus
Jindaiji Temple is the only temple in Tokyo to house a Buddhist statue that is a national treasure as of 2017. This work is called the bronze seated Shaka Nyorai statue (Hakuho Buddha).
The neighborhood is frequented by many families on the weekend who come to enjoy the temple's natural surroundings and the famous Jindaiji Temple soba
The area is also popular among Tokyoites as a leisure stop for walks because of the nearby Jindai Botanical Garden, which opened in 1961.
10 minutes by bus
35 minutes by train(non-JR lines)
Akasaka Hikawa Shrine
Amongst the shrines in Tokyo, Akasaka Hikawa Shrine in particular is a shrine where you can truly feel that "Shinto is a faith born from a respect for nature." Highlights at Akasaka Hikawa Shrine are the stunning ceiling paintings and the 400-year-old ginkgo trees within the shrine grounds. Designated as a natural monument in Minato ward in Tokyo, these large ginkgo trees have been watching over the area's history since the early Edo period. The Akasaka Hikawa Festival, held in mid-September every year, is a historic festival, and, according to the "National Festival Registry" in the Edo period, at the time it was the third largest festival in Edo (present-day Tokyo).
JR Joetsu Shinkansen
110 minutes by train (JR）
50 minutes by bus
Days 6 to 13
Touring the Faith and History of the Tohoku Region
For the second half of your journey, you will tour places where you can feel the history of the Tohoku region.
First, you will head to Yamagata Prefecture and pray at the Ideha Shrine on Mt. Haguro, one of the Three Mountains of Dewa (Dewasanzan). The Dewasanzan are Mt. Haguro, Mt. Gassan and Mt. Yudono. Let's visit the five-story pagoda at Mt. Haguro and listen to the stories of Dewasanzan and mysterious spots while being guided by Yamabushi.
Next you will make your way to Yamadera (Hojusan Risshaku-ji Temple), which has a very different atmosphere from Dewasanzan. The Yamadera, which is built on a precipice, is extremely impressive. There are also many gourmet spots on the path to the temple.
After leaving Yamagata Prefecture, you will visit Chuson-ji Temple in Iwate Prefecture and see the famous Konjikidō Golden Hall. This is a World Heritage Site that conveys the worldview of the Buddhist western paradise at the end of the Heian period (composed of structures, gardens, and archeological sites that represent Hiraizumi - Pure Land, or Buddhist paradise (Jodo)).
The Namahage is a unique part of the culture that is handed down in Akita Prefecture. You will visit the Namahage Museum, learn about the ancient legend of the Namahage, and become familiar with ancient Japanese legends.
Finally, at the end of your journey, you will go hiking in the Shirakami-Sanchi in Aomori Prefecture. Refresh yourself while walking through this beautiful nature, and truly feel the connection between nature and faith!
The Three Mountains of Dewa (Dewasanzan)
The Three Mountains of Dewa (Dewasanzan
), which represent the spiritual culture of the Tohoku region, is the collective name for Mt. Haguro, Mt. Gassan, and Mt. Yudono. The official worship of Dewasanzan
is to visit each mountain and pray. However, if there is not enough time, Mt. Haguro is recommended since you can visit in one day.In addition, it is said that praying at the Ideha (Dewasanzan
) Shrine on Mt. Haguro is equivalent to praying to the three gods. The five-story pagoda on Mt. Haguro is the oldest pagoda in the Tohoku region, and is a symbol that has been designated as a national treasure.Due to heavy snow in the area, people cannot pray at Mt. Gassan and Mt. Yudono in winter. Mt. Haguro can be climbed during the winter, but equipment such as boots is essential. You can also head to the top of Mt.Haguro by car.
120 minutes by car
Yamadera (Risshaku-ji Temple)
Risshaku-ji Temple, built on a precipice, is known by its common name as the Yamadera, and is a famous sightseeing spot in Yamagata prefecture. In order to pray at the temple you must climb more than 1,000 stone steps. However, along the way you will find "kuhi
," which are monuments engraved with haiku
poems, and spectacular viewing points. It is a fun climb that will stimulate both your mind and your senses. Approximately 90 minutes are required for a round trip from the trailhead to the "Godaido" temple at the summit, and wearing comfortable shoes for climbing is highly recommended. In the small town around the temple gates you can enjoy specialty gourmet foods such as "Yamadera-chikara konyaku
cherry ice cream," and "soba
150 minutes by car
Chūson-ji Temple is a World Heritage Site that conveys to our present age the worldview of the Buddhist paradise from the end of the Heian period. Located within the Shin-Oido Hall, the Konjikidō Golden Hall national treasure is a temple famous for being covered in gold leaf. Even amongst the many temples of Chūson-ji, the designs of Konjikidō Golden Hall are particularly elaborate, bringing together and concentrating crafting techniques of the past. In addition to Konjikidō Golden Hall, the Hondo Main Hall, where the Shaka Nyorai (historical Buddha) is enshrined, and the lotus pond are also highlights. The Chūson-ji Temple lotuses (ancient lotuses) are in bloom every year from mid-July to mid-August. The admission fee is ¥800 for adults.
180 minutes by car
The Namahage Museum is a place where you can experience the Namahage
, which in old Japanese legends handed down in Akita Prefecture is said to be a messenger of the gods, and this astounding exhibition has more than 150 Namahage
masks. At the Namahage Legend Theater, the "An Evening with the Namahage
" movie is shown every 30 minutes, enabling you to learn about the appearance of the Namahage
at events and the spirit of the people who pass on this legend and tradition. Additionally, at the souvenir corner, you can purchase rare goods that can only be obtained at the Namahage Museum. The admission fee is ¥550 for adults. You can also actually experience Namahage
customs at the adjacent Oga Shinzan Folklore Museum. Visiting here together with the museum is recommended as it enables you to gain a deeper understanding of the Namahage
. (Combined admission fee for adults): ¥880 for April to November, and ¥1,100 for December to March).
240 minutes by car
Finally, at the end of your journey, you will go hiking in the Shirakami-Sanchi, where you will truly feel the connection between nature and faith. The world's largest primeval beech forest is spread throughout the Shirakami-Sanchi, and a wide variety of plants and animals inhabit it. There is also breathtaking scenery on view no matter what season you visit, with new, fresh greenery in the spring and brilliant colored leaves in autumn. And, if you are lucky, then you may also encounter Japanese serows (Japanese goat-antelopes) or Japanese macaque monkeys, which are designated as special natural monuments. There are easy-to-walk promenades, but some courses also require considerable physical fitness.
This journey introduced a spiritual trip where you can tour natural, spiritual, and cultural spots in Tokyo and Tohoku. Enjoy this mysterious journey that enriches your mind through pondering and exploring both beautiful nature and the faith and cultures of Japanese people associated with this nature. Example transportation have been provided for reference, but walking around and exploring in the areas near the spots introduced in this journey is also recommended.
*The information provided here is as of March 2022.
*Transportation information does not include the number of transfers or transfer time.
*Admission fees may be charged depending on the spot/facility. For the latest information on business hours, days when spots/facilities are regularly closed, and prices, etc., please check the website for each spot/facility.