Hie Jinja (Hie Shrine) at Chiyoda district is not a “Must Visit for Tourists.” If this is your first time in Tokyo and you don’t have enough time, then skip it. It’s not as grand as Senso-ji at Asakusa, it’s not as historically important as Meiji jinggu at Harajuku, it’s not even Zojo-ji, the temple near Tokyo tower. But Hie Shrine is gorgeous and peaceful, smacked between skyscrapers, you wouldn’t have expected it to be there.
The Shinto shrine can trace its roots to sacred Mount Hiei, northeast of Kyoto, built in 1478. It is the protector shrine of Edo Castle. In 1659, it moved to this present site. However, it was destroyed in 1945 during WWII bombings. This current structure is what has been rebuilt in 1967.
If you’re there around mid-June, Hie Shrine is host to one of the three liveliest matsuri (festival) with dancing and music and the frenetic procession of mikoshi (the carrying of a divine palanquin to usher gods into the temple). This festival, called Sanno-Sai, involves 300 people dressed in ancient wear.
But on usual days, you can see this tunnel of torii (not tori as in “chicken” ok?) and you can pose like I did. Torii, which literally means bird house (鳥居) is a traditional red gate found at the entrance of a Shinto shrine, marking the transition from profane to sacred. You can read wikipedia for more.
Fushimi Inari-taisha at Kyoto obviously has a more magnificient tunnel of torii, but it is always crowded. Here, you can snatch a quiet moment now and then to get a photo without being photobombed.
I made used of my camouflage training in the army. See if you can spot me in the photo above. I basically blend into the gates and scenery, dressed in red and black and green. Gong xi fa cai.
This was when I pretended I was an instagrammer and posing like them.
When you’re there, note the sculpture of monkey holding her young. It’s a symbol of the shrine offering protection against miscarriages.
How to get to Hie Shrine. Listen carefully, there are two ways to climb up to Hie Shrine. If you take the Ginza line or Marunouchi line, stop at Akasaka-mitsuke station. Walk for 10 minutes and you’ll come to a black gate between two buildings (shown in the photo above). Take the LEFT flight of stairs and you’ll be at the bottom of the red torii gates.
BUT DON’T BE STUPID. Don’t climb up the stairs. TAKE THE ESCALATOR. This is the second way to Hie Shrine: Take the Ginza Line or Namboku Line to Tameike-Sanno station. When you exit the station, you’ll reach the Prime Minister’s residence. Say hi to Shinzō Abe and then walk for 5 minutes to reach the gray gates (shown in the photo above). And then you can TAKE THE ESCALATOR up the hill to the shrine. After visiting the shrine, you can then take the red gate steps DOWN. Isn’t that smarter?
One more incentive to visit Hie Shrine is that we spotted Farfetch’d here. By the way, Farfetch’d is pretty rare in Tokyo; it doesn’t appear everywhere.
But mostly, Hie Shrine provides a very pretty photo op. Come here only if you have visited other more important temples and shrines in Tokyo.
Here’s a fact sheet of the shrine:
2-10-5 Nagatchō, Chiyoda-ku
Apr-Sept 5am-6pm, Oct-Mar 6am-5pm
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.