Miyamisu Mitake Shrine was first brought to my attention last year when I saw it featured in Time Out Tokyo‘s ‘101 things to do in Shibuya’ guide. Filler or no-filler I went to check this place out and to my amazement I wondered how I’d ever missed it!!
* N.B. The pictures in this post were taken on two separate days; the festival day and just a normal day which is why the decorations (lanterns etc) are not in some photos!
Sandwiched between the First Kitchen fast food restaurant and the Post Office this shrine is very easy to walk right by. Once you’ve walked through the outer torii gate you have to ascend fifty-two stone steps (yes, I counted them! All in the name of some first class journalism for this site!) which takes you up to a footpath leading you round the gravel area which is swept in some kind of zen-like way. The lack of an obvious natural earth beneath your feet is rather unusual you may think and you’d be right.
There is actually some debate about whether this place is worthy of true shrine status as its said that shrines should be ‘on the earth under the sky’ but is this one on top of a hill? Is it even under the sky given the huge skyscrapers that dwarf it?! There is a chance though that the hills to either side could have made way for the buildings which is fairly common in such urban areas like Tokyo. Whether or not it is a bonafide official shrine matters not really (two of Japan’s most popular ones; Meiji Jingū and Fushimi Inari don’t meet the required criteria) as there is no law saying that they must be recognised by the Association of Shinto Shrines. It’s not the only unusual thing about this place but this site can explain all that way better than me.
In order to protect them from evil influences, shrines are often guarded by pairs of stone foxes, monkeys or lion-dogs (depending on the type of shrine) but this one is protected by extinct Japanese wolves which is supposedly a genuine rarity in Japan. As a Foxes man I have long had a hatred for Wolves but lets not bring inane football chat into this piece!
Last Wednesday (18th September) I just happened to be in the vicinity of the dinky shrine when I noticed that its annual September festival was taking place. Lucky indeed as I had been misinformed that it was to be on the 19th. With way more people taking part than spectators, I decided to take a peek.
Basically a lot of men and women wearing happi (traditional festival coat), a few speeches and presentations, cheering, chanting, drinking (including a toast) and the carrying of a big heavy portable shrine (mikoshi) through the torii gate, down the steps and out onto Miyamasu Hill in Shibuya where it was then paraded through the street heading in the direction of Omotesando though whether it actually continued on till there I really don’t know. Personally, I’m not really a fan of such festivals usually due to the huge crowds but this one was quite nice and a refreshing change to the usual cultural stuff I engage in.
How To Get There: If you exit JR Shibuya station at Hachiko exit then turn right at the police box, walk under the bridge till you reach the crossroad and then continue straight up the hill and the shrine is about halfway up the road on the left side.
Nearby: On the other side of the Post Office is the side street where you can get some delicious pun-tastic named burgers at W.P. Gold Burger which I reviewed here last year.