亀戸天神 Kameido Tenjin & Surrounding Area

After being cooped up in my apartment for three days with (maybe) the flu, I had to get out and stretch my legs. So I bundled up and left my bike behind to go explore some shrines nearby. It’s still cold outside and I’m still a little sick, so I took the train.

I buy a monthly train pass for work, because it’s cheaper and easier than putting money on my card every day, or even every week. It’s great, because it gives you unlimited travel between your home and work stations along a certain route, so I was able to get to Kameido Station for free.

I’ve been to 亀戸天神, Kameidoten Shrine (also known as Kameido Tenjin or Kameido Tenjin Shrine) before: I biked there when I was living near Ueno Park over the summer, and walked there recently to take some pictures in the snow. The weather yesterday was much more agreeable, so I took a leisurely stroll, starting with another local shrine: 香取神社, Katori Shrine.

Katori Shrine

Kinshicho Station, the next stop over from Kameido Station on the JR Sobu Line, is a twenty minute walk from the Tokyo Skytree and it dominates the area. Everywhere you go, you can see the Skytree looming above the other buildings.

It’s great for me when I’m out on my bike, because as long as I can find my way to the Skytree, I know how to get home. It also makes for some nice pictures. This one was taken from under the 鳥居, torii gate, leading into the shrine area.

From Katori Shrine, I set off to Kameido Tenjin Shrine. I didn’t have my shrine book with me when I went to take the snow pictures, because I left from work and I don’t usually carry it around with me unless I plan on going out on an adventure.

Kameidoten Shrine

Fun fact: the 亀 “kame” in 亀戸 “Kameido” means “turtle,” so there are lots of turtles to be found around the shrine area. In the summertime, you can see them swimming in the pond. Yesterday, there wasn’t a turtle to be seen – but there were two herons! Unfortunately, they were too far away to get a good photo.

I stopped to get my shrine book signed and noticed that I’m already running out of pages! The paper in my book is very thin, so the ink has bled through in some places, like behind the 王子神社 Oji Shrine signature, which is very bold and dark.

So while I waited, I looked at the books on display. A purple one with gold embroidery caught my eye, so I picked up the sample to get a closer look. Imagine my surprise when there was printed writing inside! That’s not how it’s supposed to work!

I flipped back to the front and took a moment to actually read it (whoops) and noticed something exciting:

Tokyo Ten Shrine Pilgrimage

御朱印長東京十社めぐり, or “Shrine Book for the Ten Shrines of Tokyo Pilgrimage.”

There are a lot of shrines in Tokyo. (Believe me, I know!) The Ten Shrines of Tokyo (東京十社, Tokyo Jissha) are the ten most important shrines in the city. I’ve visited many of them before, before I had my shrine book. This one is a special pilgrimage book, with a space for each of the ten signatures, and the facing page has some information about the shrine. (In Japanese, of course, but that’s why I bought an electronic kanji dictionary.)

I know what I want for my birthday.

Once I had my signature from Kameido Tenjin Shrine, I set off to the next one marked on the guide map outside of the shrine: 天祖神社 Tenso Shrine.

Tenso Shrine

I thought the route looked familiar, and I was right: I had been here before. It was no less creepy than any of the other times I’ve visited, and it’s not just that mysterious shadow across the shrine. It feels at once lived-in and neglected, and it sends a shiver down my spine every time I’ve come here.

I was a little disappointed to find that I’ve been here before. Tokyo is secretly the world’s smallest town. You end up in the same places, over and over again, quite by accident, and run into classmates you haven’t really seen or heard from in years while you’re out doing a little shopping.

By this point, I was drooping and it was time to go home. I had planned to go out one stop further than my workplace, to 水天宮 Suitengu Shrine, but my (re)visit will have to wait until another time when I’m not still fighting off the flu.

That’s okay. Maybe when I go, I can take my bike. You miss a lot by going on the train, but I wasn’t up for it yesterday. I’m glad I was able to get out of my apartment, even if I did end up sleeping for ten hours last night.

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#shrinehoppers adventurer’s toolkit

A Lifehacker post about how to prepare for a natural disaster gave me the kick in the pants to do something that I should have done a long time ago: I made an earthquake kit. Tokyo’s  a beautiful city, but it could collapse at any moment and it’s best to be prepared.

On a happier note, here’s my “#shrinehoppers adventurer’s toolkit.”

DSC_0027

Here it is, all taken out of it’s waterproof plastic bag and displayed on my charming grey carpet. The informational pamphlets are given to you when you have your book signed, and the map was a gift from my fellow shrinehopper, Koji, who got it from a miko at a shrine near my apartment.

In addition to my 御朱印長, shrine book, I always keep a stash of ¥5 coins for offering at shrines; the aforementioned map; and a mechanical pencil to record the names of the shrines in English. I have a hard time reading kanji, especially when you get beautiful (but difficult to read) signatures like this one from Sensoji Temple in Asakusa.

Sensoji Temple

I mean, really. What? This is one of my favorite signatures in my book so far, but it’s difficult for me to read. Anna has miraculous kanji skills and an incredible memory, so she just knows where each signature is from (and she has a lot of signatures, let me tell you), and Koji uses sticky notes, but I write in pencil on the corner of the page, just in case.

My Shinto book (soon to be books, hooray!) and research notebook stay at home, but I included them in my toolkit picture because research is becoming part of the #shrinehoppers experience. I’m no longer content with just seeing the sights: I want to understand them.

Hikawa Shrine Protective Charm

Kameido Tenjin Shrine Protective Charm

The last piece of my toolkit is a charm on my trusty bike. My first charm (left) was from Hikawa Shrine in Omiya, but it’s in pretty rough shape from the wind and the rain and protecting me while I bike around – on adventures and errands alike – so I’ll need to return there in order to get a signature for my book, and to leave the old charm there to be ceremonially burned. (I really should have done this before New Year.)

The new bike charm was purchased the other day when I walked to Kameido Tenjin Shrine in the snow. I figured I deserved a reward for that trek, and what better than a charm to protect me while I go out on more adventures?

honorary #shrinehoppers

SAFETY TRAVEL

Dude kept getting lost, so we made sure he bought this for safe travel.

While Koji’s friend Ron was visiting Tokyo for a week, he became an honorary, short term #shrinehopper with us. Starting at Sensoji Temple in Asakusa, he collected signatures in his shrine book in the little time while he was here – and used our #shrinehoppers hash tag to post his shrine pictures on Twitter!

Check out his photos from Hanazono Shrine in Shinjuku, and Sensoji Temple in Asakusa!

If you’re a #shrinehopper, too, send me a mention on Twitter (@shrinehoppers) or save the #shrinehoppers list on Foursquare!

亀戸天神 Kameido Shrine

We had a snow day at work today, so I was out by two o’clock. Usually by the time I get out, shrines have closed up shop for the day, so I took advantage of the rare time off – and even rarer snow in Tokyo. We aren’t looking at a piddling few inches, either; I’ve got at least five inches on my balcony. I’m looking at it from the comfort and warmth of my futon, but I’ll get to that part later.

After leaving work, I couldn’t decide where to go. I tried to find a shrine near Kinshicho Station, but the one I went out looking for was mysteriously missing. Maybe it’s one of those shrines that are rumored to exist on the roofs of buildings? I don’t even know for sure that those exist. Has anyone else heard of them?

Eventually, I made my way through the slush and freezing rain to Kameido Shrine. In the springtime, it’s covered in beautiful wisteria blossoms. Today, it was covered in snow.

Kameido Shrine 1/14

The snow was falling so heavily that it was impossible to see very far. There is a shrine hiding back there, I promise! I just didn’t get a picture, because after all that, my camera (phone) was dying by the time I made it there.

Whoops.

I did manage to get a few more pictures while I was there, despite a dying camera battery and freezing fingers.

Kameido Shrine 1/14

Kameido Shrine 1/14 Kameido Shrine 1/14

Although the trek back to the station was miserable, I was so cold and wet, today’s trip was definitely worth it. I’ve lived in Tokyo for almost a year and a half(!), and this is only the second time I’ve seen snow. I’m grateful for the opportunity to see the shrines like this. I think it’s even more beautiful for it’s rarity.

I’m also grateful to be back at home, all bundled up and warm. I’m spending my evening thawing and watching Kamisama Kiss. Hopefully I’ll have a post about that soon.

PS. I love two things: shrines and cupcakes. I’ve got the shrines covered, but check out Love Hate Bake for all of your cupcake needs!