Zenkokuji temple、Secret side of Tokyo

Zenkokuji shrine, Kagurazaka, Shinjuku, Tokyo

Zenkokuji temple was built in 1595(late Momoyama era) in Bakurocho, Taito ward, which is much more east direction from here.  The temple was moved here in 1793  because it was caught in several fires and burned down.  Now people think that this temple is like a key spot of Kagurazaka street.

The principal image is Bishamonten (Vaisravana) in Zenkokuji.   In Hinduism, Vaisravana is positioned as one of the guardian gods of Buddhism.   As Vaisravana is the god of fortune, welfare appeared in the year of the tiger, the day of the tiger and the time of the tiger. 

We can see Bishamonten only on fixed days.


A pair of Tigers sit at the approach of this temple. 

Do they look like a tiger?  The statue was put up here in1849.  At that time, most of Japanese people could not have any chance to see a tiger. That made this statue unlike a real tiger.

The Ukiyoe of Atago-jinja shrine

I put some pictures related Atago-jinja shrine. Atago-jinja shrine is on the top of Atago mountain, which is the highest natural mountain among all of 23 Tokyo wards.   This place had been widely known for its beautiful scenery from the top of the mountain in Edo and Meiji era.  It commanded a wonderful view on Tokyo bay then.   Unfortunately, we cannot see Tokyo Bay any more because of the reclaimed land and high-rise buildings.

It is interesting to compare the Ukiyoe of Atago-jinja shrine with the current picture of that.  The second image below is “Ukiyoe of Atagoyama by Shotei Hokuju in Edo era”  The third one is the work of Kunisada Utagawa. 

Ukiyoe of Atago-jinja shrine Success steps

The steep steps in the pictures are called “Success steps” and famous for the following episode.

Success steps

“In the Edo period, a famous Samurai named Magaki-Heikurou went up and down the steps riding a horse.
Since then he succeeded in his life. These days people share his good luck and go up the stairs to wish for their success”
from the signboard of Atago Jinja shrine


Access: Walkable from Kamiyacho station(Hibiya line),Onarimon(Toei Mita Line)  You can use an elevator just beside the tunnel to go up to the shrine. Please try Kagurazaka walk!

Otoshi in Izakaya Tavern

“Otoshi is an appetizing small dish served as soon as a customer sits down in a Japanese bar or Izakaya(tavern) “at night(Quote from weblio).

During the stay in Japan, many overseas visitors must drop in  Izakaya . You would get happy if you choose good Izakaya. Nice food, comfortable atmosphere, reasonable price!  Some Izakaya specializes in fish, some do in Yakitori(Bite-size pieces of chicken grilled on a skewer).  Walking in the busy city such as Shinjuku, we are at loss in which Izakaya to have dinner sometimes. 

In Izakaya, a waiter/ess  automatically serve you an hors d’oeuvre at first and you have to pay for it later, even though you did not order it.  It is a  fixed dish.  You might get upset if you did not know this system. 

It is better to consider Otoshi as a kind of table charge in Izakaya or bar. Though we usually cannot skip it, most of stand-up  Izakaya and bars do not take any table charge.  You might decline otoshi in some restaurants or change  the menu to the other apptizer in case that you would not like  a fixed one.  Please check it.

The Ukiyoe of kagurazaka

Here are Hiroshige Utagawa’s Kagurazaka in Ukiyoe and the present picture of the place that Utagawa drew.  

We can see the the gate to Edo castle as circled with red line.  (1830~1844) Late Tenpo

Hiroshige Utagawa Ushigomekagurazaka


In the present picture, I also draw a red circle around the top of the hill  where the gate to the castle was located. 

Actually, we can see the remain of the stone gate beside JR IIdabashi station west exit.  The outer moat  is next to the remain of the gate.   In spring, a lot of cherry blossoms bloom along the moat.  We can enjoy the view of the moat sipping coffee at a cafe along the moat.