In the first days of the year many Japanese visit shrines/temples in order to pray to each of the so-called “seven lucky gods” (Shichifukujin, 七 福神). This is called the Shichifukujin Meguri (七福神めぐり), a pilgrimage to multiple shrines/temples (for the seven different gods, a hodgepodge of gods with their origin in Japan, China and India), where you can pray for luck in the new year. There are many traditional courses in Tokyo that bring you to these places of worship. One of the famous ones is in Mukojima alongside the Sumida river. Last year I toured the 7 shrines in Nihombashi-Ningyocho, another famous course.
Different from the course in Ningyocho is that the Mukojima course is not only made up by Shinto Shrines, but also by Buddhist temples and even a flower garden. This shows the Japanese attitude of mixing up religious elements.
I diligently collected the stamps that are available at each place to commemorate your visit. You can put these in your personal notebook or a book sold by a shrine. Even better is to buy a special board (shikishi, 色紙) on which you can put these stamps at any of the participating shrines/temples. I bought my board at Mimeguri Shrine for JPY 300. See the resulting board at the top of this page.
If you visit these places on New Year’s day, be prepared to queue in order to pray. However, you can collect the stamp without praying, just locate the place where you can stamp your board, usually somewhere close to the main building.
You can find a map with the 6 shrines I visited at the bottom of this article.
- Start at Mimeguri Shrine, a 10 minutes walk from exit A3 of Oshiage Station (Hanzomon line) or 10 minutes walk exit from exit 2 of Tokyo Skytree Station (Tobu Skytree line).
- Walking along the shrines/temples/park with a short visit takes about 2 hours, depending on how long you stop by each place. As it can get crowded and you will stop at several places it is safe to allocate at least 3 hours in order to do the full tour.
- This course takes you to 6 locations, including shrines, temples and one garden. At the first shrine you immediately have 2 gods, hence you only need to visit 6 places instead of 7.
- The distance between the first 3 places is very short, not more than a couple of hundred meters. The distance between Chomeiji (3rd) and Mukojima-Hyakkaen Gardens (4th) is 1 kilometer, between Shirahige Shrine (5th) and Samonji Temple (6th) the distance is 1.6 kilometer.
1. Mimeguri Shrine
Mimeguri means “three times around” in English. Its name originates from a 14th century legend about a priest called Genkei who witnessed a magical white fox appearing around a vase that was recently excavated.
This shrine is most closely associated with the Mitsui family who owned the Mitsui conglomerate until the end of WWII. The Akina Reisha building (built in 1874, relocated to Mimeguri shrine in 1994) enshrines ancestral members of the Mitsui family. This relationship was again made clear when the Mitsukoshi department store (formerly part of the Mitsui conglomerate) gave a new pair of guardian lions to the shrine in 2009.
Huge line on New Year’s Day at the main shrine building of Mimeguri shrine. Please note that the shrine where you can pray for Ebisu and Daikoku is located to the left of the main shrine building.
Lucky god: Ebisu-gami, one of the most popular gods, is the god of prosperity and wealth in business, and of abundance in crops, cereals and food in general. In his right hand he holds a fishing rod, in his left hand a fish (often a tai fish), as he is also the patron of fishermen. Out of the 7 lucky gods, he is the only one with a pure Japanese background without any Hindu or Chinese influence. At this shrine, also Daikoku-shin is worshipped, the god of five cereals and wealth.
Special about this shrine: It has a triangular three pillar torii, called mihashira torii, located on its grounds towards the back (not the entrance torii) that can be found at only some shrines in Japan. They are thought by some to have been built by early Japanese Christians to represent Holy Trinity.
On the right behind the shrine there are two small shrines and a tunnel of red torii dedicated to a legendary fox which used to live here. Also special at this shrine is the presence of two pairs of stone guardian animals in front of the main shrine.
Address: 2-5-17 Mukojima, Sumida-ku, Tokyo
Japanese name: 三囲神社（恵比寿・大国神）
This temple was established in 1673, the current impressive building in Chinese-style is from 1933. The unmistakable style of the Obaku School of Buddhism (the third largest school of Zen in Japanese Buddhism) can be found in the moon viewing stage, called getudai, before the main hall.
The main temple building of Kofukuji.
Lucky god: Hotei, a Chinese Zen priest, is worshipped here as a god of fortune and guardian of the children. He is also called the god of popularity.
Special about this temple: Near the gate in an alcove with two statutes of an archaically smiling man and women (called Seki No Jiji Baba Son). They kind of look like a big round stones, a big one and a small one. They are supposed to help against coughing and have attracted worshippers since the 17th century.
Address: 2-3-2 Mukojima, Sumida-ku, Tokyo
Japanese name: 弘福寺 (布袋尊)
Chomeiji is said to be found in the early 17th century, but the current buildings are all rather new, except one of the stone monuments, which dates from 1659. This temple is mainly know for its Sakura Mochi that you can buy behind the temple (you need to go outside of the temple through the back to find this store, see the candy sign on the map at the bottom of this article, you will need to zoom in on the map to see it). This store was established in 1717 and is especially popular at the time of sakura blossom viewing (called hanami). Check their website for more information (Japanese only).
Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902), a major figure in the development of modern haiku poetry, used to live on the second floor of the Sakura Mochi store for 3 months in 1888.
Chomeiji temple main building.
Sakura mochi store. One mochi comes together with green tea for JPY 300.
Lucky god: Benzai-ten, the goddess of music and charm, is worshipped here. Benzai-ten (often referred to as Benten) is the only female presence among the 7 lucky gods. She is also a provider of learning and wealth.
Special about this temple: it has a kindergarten attached to it.
Address: 5-4-4 Mukojima, Sumida-ku, Tokyo
Japanese name: 長命寺（弁財天）
4. Mukojima-Hyakkaen Gardens
This garden is not the same as most of the other gardens you find in Tokyo as it is flower garden with a more spontaneous style than a traditional Japanese garden. It is in fact the only surviving flower garden from the Edo Period. However, it has suffered extensive damage due to the Tokyo bombings during World War II. The name Hyakkaen signifies “a garden of one hundred flowers”.
The small shrine for Fukurokuju in the park.
Lucky god: Fukurokuju is worshipped here for virtue and longevity.
Special about this park: it is special that this kind of place of worship is located in a park that has no obvious religious function.
Address: 3-18-3 Mukojima, Sumida-ku, Tokyo
Opening hours: 9:00-17:00
Entrance: JPY 150 (free on the first 3 days of the year: 1-3 January)
Japanese name: 向島百花園（福禄寿）
5. Shirahige Shrine
This shrine was established in the middle of the 10th century. Unfortunately the beautiful wooden building was burnt down in 1990 by terrorists who set fire to the building as protest against an ancient theocratic ritual held during Prince Akihito’s enthronement ceremonies.
The newly rebuilt Shirahige Shrine.
Lucky god: Juro-jin is the lucky god at this shrine. You need to get in touch with him if you want virtue and longevity.
Special about this shrine: the name of the shrine can explain the lucky god that is worshipped here. Shirahige means “white-bearded” and is usually how Juro-jin is being depicted.
Address: 3-5-2 Mukojima, Sumida-ku, Tokyo
Japanese name: 白髭神社（寿老人）
6. Tamonji Temple
The establishment of the Tamonji temple dates from the same age as the above Shirahige Shrine, sometime in the middle of the 10th century (the exact date is unknown). The temple was moved to its current location in the 16th century.
Tamonji Temple main building.
Lucky god: Bishamon-ten is the lucky god that is worshipped here, the god of victory from which one can receive virtue. In particular revered by the warrior class.
Special about this temple: The thatched gate of this temple was built in 1718 and is still standing, making it one of the oldest structures in Tokyo and the oldest structure in the Sumida Ward.
Address: 5-31-13 Mukojima, Sumida-ku, Tokyo
Japanese name: 多聞寺（毘沙門天）