Yushima Tenjin Shrine is a Shinto shrine in Bunkyo City, Tokyo prefecture originally established in 458 A.D. The shrine was rebuilt in 1948, and after numerous reconstructions and restorations, a new all-cypress shrine pavilion was constructed in 1995. Located near Ueno Park, it is easy to make a day trip out of visiting the shrine by also visiting the nearby Shinobazu Pond and Ameyoko Street Market. The Ueno Zoo is also located about ten minutes from Yushima Tenjin and is open from 9:30 AM – 5 PM. The zoo costs 600 yen for adults and is the oldest zoo in Japan, opening back in 1882.
I visited Yushima Tenjin on May 27th, 2023, for a matsuri (shrine festival) that was being held. The main attraction of the matsuri is the mikoshi parade. The mikoshi is a portable shrine that is usually carried by the shrine’s parishioners as they show off the shrine’s deities throughout the town. The festival’s purpose is to ward off misfortune while also wishing for happiness. This is achieved via the parading of the portable shrine (mikoshi) around town.
There were numerous food and souvenir booths lining the walkways of the shrine and its adjacent streets. The food booths also extended through the main torii gate towards where the mikoshi was placed and would be starting its route from. After eating some treats, the crowd huddled by the parade’s start and waited in anticipation for it to start.
Before the mikoshi was carried down the street, there were numerous announcements and build-ups. Multiple taiko drums were played as festival attendees waited for the ceremony to start. As the parade began, the mikoshi started to make its way toward the torii gate. The surrounding venue was filled with the excitement of onlookers as dozens of the shrine’s parishioners carried the mikoshi on their shoulders and began to make their way toward the torii gate. With everyone wanting to take photos and videos of the celebration, the sea of phones and cameras was slowly moved aside by shrine members responsible for crowd control in order to ensure that the mikoshi had room to move forward. Eventually, the mikoshi did make its way through the torii gate as jubilant onlookers cheered with excitement.
The matsuri was a fantastic experience that I would highly recommend to anyone wanting to immerse themselves in Japanese culture. Visiting a shrine is one thing, but seeing the passion and excitement during a mikoshi festival truly elevates the cultural experience to a new level. Not only are you able to experience an event that is exclusive to Japan, but the excitement by the locals and shrine members alike is unlike anything that I have experienced so far in the country.