I’m big in Japan: Nezu Jinja and Taitō stroll (2005 May 10)

2 minute read

Nezu Jinja is a Shinto shrine tucked away down a side street in Ueno. When we left Ueno Park, there were few street signs to help us get our bearings, but the guidebook had a pretty good map we could follow. We managed to only get turned around once but realized we were headed the wrong way after a couple of minutes. Nezu Jinja is a sizeable piece of land carved out of the cityscape; it is surrounded by a university, shops, and other large buildings. It was remarkable to find such a quiet and beautiful area nestled snugly in the middle of the urban sprawl. Without the guidebook, I’m not sure how a tourist would find this place other than sheer luck.

Upon entering, you are in a large, open courtyard with a stream and plenty of colorful flowers and plants surrounding the complex. You can stroll around and find many small shrines for prayers and offerings. The highlight of the park is the long pathway of torii gates and the main shrine. The main shrine is surrounded by walls giving it its own unique courtyard. It instantly became my second favorite spot on the trip so far. After exploring every inch, we sat down in the main courtyard and rested for a bit. We watched a number of people painting and sketching, parents taking their children out for some air and exercise, and old people coming to pass the time.

Heading out for the final portion of the walking tour, we were not very hungry but were extremely thirsty. A quick stop at one of the ubiquitous vending machines cured that (480¥), and we began to explore the depths of Taitō City. The tour held no major stops or attractions along the way; it simply took you through a typical suburb of Japan and gave you a taste of the architecture and daily life. There must be some decent tourist foot traffic through the city though; there were a number of street maps, some with English, along the way to help us keep on track when the guidebook wasn’t entirely clear.

Along the walk we found many more small shrines and temples wedged between the houses. I could not help but wonder how they all manage to stay open especially with land being a premium commodity. Near the end of the tour, there was a small bakery/café built to resemble a Swiss chalet. The tour ended conveniently enough at a small subway stop; we decided to head back to the Ginza to do a bit of shopping and grab some dinner.