Yasukuni Shrine, Tokyo, Japan

First gate of Yasukuni shrine, Tokyo, Japan

The first Shinto gate/torii of Yasukuni shrine in central Tokyo, over the road from Kitanomaru Park and then the Imperial Palace Gardens.

Yasukuni Shrine, aka Imperial Shrine of Yasukuni

Dancers approaching Yasukuni shrine, Tokyo, Japan

Dancers approaching the shrine (jinja), another random, colourful, musical event. Happens a lot around Japanese shrines and temples!

Varied Shinto festivals take place around the shrine, especially in Spring and Autumn when portable mikoshi shrines lurch around colourfully on the shoulders of husky males, me included on one occasion. I can reveal that it is not easy being the tallest person carrying a mikoshi, you end up either with bent and knackered knees  or bear far too much weight and get a knackered back! Still, a fun experience especially since saké flows freely.

The Japanese Imperial Chrysanthemum is emblazoned on the curtains.

Purification Retreat, Yasukuni shrine, Tokyo, Japan

Yasukuni jinja’s Purification Retreat, adjacent to the shrine.

Yasukuni Shrine Hall

Yasukuni shrine main hall, Tokyo, Japan.

Yasukuni shrine’s Main Hall is straight ahead and charm/amulet shop on the right. Charms to ward off bullets, perhaps? Or protection from over-enthusiastic officials?

This picture is not as informative as I wished but I managed to enrage an official by standing in front of the shrine to take a photo. He was unusually loud and impolite for a Japanese person who are generally extremely reserved. He was quite clear that my action was punishable by decapitation, one stroke of the katana. Maybe I exaggerate a little but it was enough to encourage my prompt departure!

Yasukuni Shrine’s Purpose

Yasukuni shrine, war plaque, Tokyo, Japan

Yasukuni shrine is controversial for its celebration of warriors and this plaque is one of several seen near the second Shinto arch that portrays Japanese military in a not pleasant way.

The shrine was founded by Emperor Meiji in 1869 to remember those who died in service of the Empire. This currently numbers 2.5 million deities enshrined here, the souls of those who have sacrificed themselves for Japan in wars since 1853, all equal in death regardless of rank or social standing.

Yasukuni Shrine, Yushukan Museum, Tokyo, Japan. Photo Nick-D

Yasukuni’s Yushukan Museum. Photo Nick-D.

For military aficionados you will note the human torpedo in the centre (with periscope) and the white suicide plane top centre. The fighter plane at the back is not the famous Zero but a later model.

Yushukan Museum stores and exhibits relics that were used by deities – the souls of warriors killed on active service. These are symbolically enshrined in Yasukuni Jinja, historic records of soldier’s faith and accomplishments. Over 100,000 items are displayed, art, armour and weapons. Photos are only permitted in the first floor entrance hall.

The museum  opens from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm from April to September, closing at 5:00 pm during winter months.

Getting there

Yasukuni shrine makes a good start to a day’s tour of very central Tokyo. After the shrine it’s across the adjacent Kitanomura Park and into the Imperial Palace Gardens, a fair walk and you’ll mostly see grass, trees and impressive walls. Entry into the palace is not possible. Then stagger across to beautifully renovated Tokyo station, or Otemachi station, or head for Ginza and more walking.

The Imperial Palace is across the large road to the southeast.

Getting To Yasukuni by train:

Kudanshita Station (to the east)

Ichigayamitsuke Station (to the south)

Iidabashi Station (to the north)

Yasukuni shrine, bonsai display, Tokyo, Japan

A Bonsai display at the shrine on the day I visited. And that’s bonsai, not “banzai”!