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A “matchmaking” shrine surrounded by office buildings: Toranomon Kotohiragu Shrine

The history of Toranomon Kotohiragu Shrine dates back to 1679. What makes this shrine especially interesting is the fact that while the city has been growing, it fully integrated the shrine into the modern cityscape and the shrine became one with the surrounding office buildings. The buildings arching over parts of the shrine, like a roof, also protects it from the rain. Kotohiragu Shrine is a special place where you can still find traces of various Japanese religious traditions.

Toranomon Kotohiragu Shrine

Kotohiragu

Kotohiragu is surrounded by skyscrapers. The contrast between concrete and traditional Japanese architecture is exciting.

Kotohiragu

Some of the shrine buildings are “covered” by an office building.

About ‘Hyakudo-mairi’ in Japan

Long ago, people believed that if you continuously visit a shrine every day for 100 days, your prayers will come true. This is called ‘hyakudo-mairi‘ (meaning: 100 times of visiting a shrine). This belief has been around for at least 800 years.


But for people with very urgent wishes, it was – of course – not possible to visit the shrine 100 consecutive days. Therefore, people started worshipping 100 times while walking back and forth from the entrance of the precincts to the main hall. To set a “return point” and make everything easier, a ‘
hyakudo-ishi’ (= hundred time stone) was set up in the precincts so people could go back and forth between the stone mark and the worship hall. It was also said that walking barefoot would be more “effective”.

Washing hands before praying.

Nowadays, hyakudo-mairi is rare, but you can sometimes see a hyakudo-mairi scene in Japanese movies and anime. 

Hyakudo-ishi stone

By the way, the hyakudoishi stone at Kotohiragu Shrine is said to be a present from a person whose prayers were fulfilled.

A special prayer for women only

There is another religious tradition that you can see at Toranomon Kotohiragu Shrine. The small shrine on the right side of the main shrine attracts a lot of worshipers. That is because this is a place where people can pray for meeting the right person – which in the best scenario would lead to marriage. The “en musubi prayer set” is limited to women and includes a red string and an amulet. If you tie the thread around a string at the small shrine you might find love…or at least a great friend!

Kotohira

My friend Sunmi purchased an “en musubi” set – hopefully, she will find the right one!

In the olden days, women used to tie their hair to the shrine. Today, this practice is forbidden due to hygiene reasons. That’s why today people use a red thread instead. 

Kotohira

In Japan, a red destiny string stands for the “unbreakable bond between two people”.

Japan has many unique worship traditions and ways to express faith. Toranomon Kotohiragu Shrine is a place where you can still feel the strong emotions of people – even in modern Tokyo.

Toranomon Kotohiragu Shrine

www.kotohira.or.jp/
1-2-7 Toranomon, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/wCJ4YJDcF3w5h4KZ7
Nearest stations: Toranomon Station, Kasumigaseki Station


Please note that the facilities introduced in this article may not be open due to measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Please do not go out during the state of emergency. However, we hope this article can function as an inspiration for your future travel plans.

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writer

I was born and raised in Kiel/Germany. When I was 16 I came to Japan for the first time. I fell in love with this beautiful country, so I returned after my university graduation. Since then, I have been living in Tokyo - and I don't plan to change anything about that ;-) My hobbies are taking a stroll around the city, taking photos and drinking coffee.

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