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Visit the Seven Gods of Fortune While Exploring Yanaka, Tokyo

Date: 12.28.2020

Making a pilgrimage in Japan is on the bucket list of many people. From journeys that stretch many days and cover long distances to those that are shorter in time and reach, there are many options to choose from. Some pilgrimage routes can be found even in the middle of Tokyo, like the one we introduce here, which includes temples representing the Seven Gods of Fortune (or the Seven Lucky Gods) in Tokyo’s historic Yanaka neighborhood, which lies between Tabata and Ueno Stations.

There are many pilgrimage routes across Japan where the seven gods can be seen, but the route featured in this article embraces a tradition that dates back 250 years. The main stars of the route, the deities themselves, are only on display at the beginning of January, so be sure to visit then, when you can also find vendors lining the streets and temples offering special goshuin fortune stamps with optional calligraphy.

This exciting pilgrimage can take anywhere from two hours to a whole day, depending on how much you wander around. With temple cats, retro-shopping alleys, delicious restaurants, and fascinating architecture (along with the gods themselves, of course!)—this pilgrimage route offers fun and fortune—and a bit of exercise!—for everyone to enjoy.

See below for a suggested route with details about each deity and a few recommendations for delightful stops along the way!

Dates and Times: January 1–10, 9:00–17:00

Distance: This route is approximately six kilometers.

 

1. Togakuji Temple (Fukurokuju)

2-7-3 Tabata, Kita City, Tokyo

Nestled among apartment complexes not too far from Tabata Station is the first stop, Togakuji Temple. This temple is home to Fukurokuju, the deity of wealth and longevity. Togakuji is often the most crowded of the seven temples because it is the starting point of the pilgrimage route, so be sure to arrive early or be prepared to wait in a queue.

Enjoy Yomise-dori, the first of many retro-shopping alleys you will encounter along the route. Amuse yourself in the pottery stores, noodle-making shops, cafés, and knickknack emporiums, such as Watosha, which sells stationery and goods—often featuring cats—made by local artists.

 

2. Seiunji Temple (Ebisu)

3-6-4 Nishi-nippori, Arakawa City, Tokyo

Tucked away in a cul-de-sac, Seiunji Temple is home to Ebisu, the deity of fisherman and good commerce. Ebisu is often shown holding his trademark sea bream, which represents an abundance of food.

Enjoy Temples that are not part of the pilgrimage. Some display English signs that describe their history and relevance to Shintoism and Buddhism. Here, you may also see temple cats popping their heads out from a hiding place!

 

3. Shushoin Temple (Hoteison, commonly known as Hotei)

3-7-12 Nishi-nippori, Arakawa City, Tokyo

This temple is impossible to miss because it’s surrounded by a bright pink wall featuring paintings of the happiest deity, Hoteison. From these paintings, we can be sure that he lives up to his designation as the god of happiness, mirth, and popularity, as well as the guardian of children. Shushoin Temple certainly wins the award for most inviting temple of them all.

Enjoy Yanaka Ginza, yet another retro-shopping street, and its famous steps called Yuyake Dandan. The street features food vendors and cafés—perfect for a midpoint coffee, a spot of shopping, or a lunch break. For an amazing deal on items that are international in taste, dine at Zakuro, an Iranian, Turkish and Uzbekistan cuisine restaurant that doubles as a lamp shop.

 

4. Choanji Temple (Jurojin)

5-2-22 Yanaka, Taito City, Tokyo

Choanji is possibly the smallest and narrowest temple on the list—fitting for the temple housing Jurojin, who is said to be a very old and petite deity frequently accompanied by a black deer. He is the god of longevity.

Enjoy A beautiful view of Tokyo Skytree and a stroll along the Yanaka Cemetery, which encompasses over one hundred thousand square meters of land (twenty-five acres) and has seven thousand graves.

 

5. Tennoji Temple (Bishamonten)

7-14-8 Yanaka, Taito City, Tokyo

Tennoji Temple was built in 1274, but its concrete gate is one of its fascinating modern features. Here waits Bishamonten, the deity of fortune in battles and the patron of fighters.

Enjoy SCAI, The Bathhouse, perfect for art buffs who may need a rest between all the temple visits. This former bathhouse is now a gallery for contemporary art.

 

6. Gokokuin Temple (Daikokuten)

10-18 Ueno-koen, Taito City, Tokyo

Gokokuin Temple sits near the edge of the famous Ueno Park. The temple’s courtyard features an outdoor Noh theater, and the space for receiving goshuin is a spacious indoor tatami room where guests are free to roam. Daikokuten is the deity in residence and is the god of agriculture and commerce.

The short walk to the next temple—and the end of the pilgrimage!

 

7. Kaneiji Temple (Benzaiten)

1-14-11 Ueno-sakuragi, Taito City, Tokyo

The last temple on the route houses the only female deity of the group—Benzaiten. She is the goddess of music and knowledge and is associated with learning and wealth. Kaneiji is also the grandest temple of the seven and has a lovely spacious courtyard where visitors can relax.

Now that the pilgrimage is complete, continue strolling on to the nearest train station, or venture around Ueno for a taste of post–New Year’s excitement in Tokyo!

(Please take appropriate social-distancing precautions on your visit, and be advised that the availability of goshuin or calligraphy is subject to change.)

This article was written by Nina Cataldo.

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