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