Kanda Myojin - An Ancient Shrine with A Techie Twist

Japan is home to scores of both Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, each with a special history of its own. Some are grand, vibrant, and popular, while others are small, simple, and tucked away in neighborhoods only occasionally visited by tourists. 

Because Tokyo is a highly populated city, many of its shrines tend to get the most attention and are built large enough to handle the masses of people that come here to honor their beliefs. One shrine, situated within Chiyoda – a special ward of Tokyo - in the city district of Kanda, is the Kanda Myojin Shrine.  

By Kakidai [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

 Fast Facts About Kanda Myojin; A Shrine in Tokyo

Written in Japanese as “神田明神”, the Kanda-myojin shrine (officially known as Kanda-jinja [神田神社], or Kanda Shrine for short) is a 1,270-year old Shinto shrine. While its structure may not be that of the original building (earthquakes and fires have struck several versions of the shrine’s structures), it still stands tall in one of Tokyo’s most posh and pricey districts. 

This shrine is dedicated to three kami, which are gods/divinities. These are namely Onamuchi (known as “Daikoku” in Buddhism), Sukunabikona (“Ebisu” as the Buddhist counterpart) and Taira no Masakado. Its address is 2-16-2, Soto-Kanda, Chiyoda, Tokyo 〒 101-0021.

The Favorite of the Warrior Class

During the Edo period, this shrine was frequently visited by those who belonged to the warrior class. Those from that class were usually wealthy and saw the prestige in coming to this shrine because it was visited by Tokugawa Ieyasu -  the powerful founder of the nation’s Tokugawa Shogunate.

Now, It’s A Favorite of Technophiles

Because this shrine is in close proximity to Akihabara, which developed over time to become a famous shopping district filled with all kinds of electronics and gadgets, this shrine has been believed to bring luck when it comes to any form of technology. You can purchase special charms here that make sure your technology runs well throughout the year, sparing it from possible problems.

The History Behind the Kanda Shrine; Also Known as Kanda Myojin

The very first structure of Kanda shrine was erected in 730 A.D., during the Tenpyo era (August of 729 A.D. – April of 749 A.D.) near what is known as the Otemachi district today. At that time, this area was a simple village called “Shibasaki”, whose economy focused on the fishing industry. Because the Edo castle was continuing to expand, Kanda Shrine would be resituated in 1603 to what was then known as Kanda Ward. By 1616, it was moved to where it currently stands; near Akihabara, up on slightly elevated grounds. Since then, Kanda Myojin has seen many changes to its infrastructure. 

In 1923, the Great Kanto earthquake occurred, dealing major damage to many landmarks in Tokyo, and the Kanda Shrine was not spared. In 1934, it was rebuilt with concrete, thus was one of the few shrines that withstood the bombs that blasted the city during the second world war. However, even up until today, the Kanda shrine is still in the process of being restored.

The Story of Taira No Masakado

While Sukunabikona and Onamuchi are kami that have more untraceable and mythological backgrounds, Taira no Masakado was an actual rebel samurai who lived through the Heian period and did not agree with the government ruling Kyoto at that time. The story of Taira goes that he was a part of a powerful clan; the Kammu Taira clan. He leads a party that was self-governing and was the first to do so. 

He led the “Jōhei Tengyo no ran”, which was a small rebellion against the Hitachi Province’s central government in 939. He was able to conquer the provinces of Kozuke and Shimotsuke and proclaimed himself as the New Emperor, otherwise known as “Shinno”.

Because he killed his uncle, who was also a part of the Taira clan, a bounty was placed on his head by Kyoto’s central government. Two months later, the son of the uncle Masakado killed, along with Fujiwara no Hidesato, murdered Masakado. This occurred in the Battle of Kojima in 940, within the province of Shimosa. He died on March 25, 940.

An Intense Spirit

Masakado’s head was brought to the capital – but somehow found its way to the initial area that the Kanda Myojin was built, which is Shibasaki, where it was buried. As time passed by, the story of Masakado’s brave opposition inspired many locals, who revered him, raising him to demigod status. Because his spirit is known to be malevolent when it wants to be, locals also prayed to him to appease him. They noticed that the more they would give him attention, the better circumstances Edo (old Tokyo) found itself in. If they left the shrine unattended, unfortunate events would befall their lands.

Emperor Meiji was not a fan of Masakado’s anti-government beliefs and had his enshrinement removed so that he could peacefully add the shrine to the Tokyo Jussha, or Tokyo Ten Shrines. After the second world war, though, he re-enshrined, because of how much the locals loved him.

By Gomurafuji at ja.wikipedia (Transferred from ja.wikipedia) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], from Wikimedia Commons

Architectural Elements of the Kanda Shrine

This shrine has a main gate named “Zuishin-mon”, written as “隨神門”. It is two stories high and indicates the shrine’s entrance way. Zuishin-mon boasts of an irimoya roof, which is a hip-and-gable roof that is common in Eastern Asian Architecture. It is made of cypress wood and was finished in the year 1995. 

As for the shrine itself, it follows the Gongen-zukuri (権現造) style. This style is a way that some Shinto shrines are patterned after. Here, the worship hall (called “haiden”) and the main sanctuary (“honden”) share a roof and are therefore connected to each other with a small room in such that the entire structure resembles the letter “H”. 

The shrine possesses a light, turquoise colored roof. Most of its walls are painted vermilion, matched with intricate details, engravings, and fixtures in gold. It has stone statues of animals that guard the entrance.

The Significance of the Enshrined Kami

It is a Shinto belief that certain shrines have stronger powers depending on the field that the kami is known to be an expert in. Other shrines give luck for romance, protection, healing, and others. The Kanda shrine is known to give the most powerful luck and success in two aspects – business, and technology. 

There are two kami enshrined here (Onamuchi and Sukunabikona) have been categorized as part of the Seven Gods of Fortune or “Shichifukujin” (七 福神) so over history, this shrine has attracted those in the field of business, praying for their prosperity. 

You can worship a specific kami if it is known to have strong luck in a specific field. Onamuchi is also known to be the god of marriage, so praying to him may increase chances of securing your relationship with your husband or wife. Praying to Taira no Masakado, on the other hand, could score you a victory in a game, or in a competition, you plan on participating in. 

Understanding Omamori

To reinforce the luck and protection offered by the kami in a shrine, it is part of Shinto tradition and beliefs to purchase an Omamori and keep it with you throughout the year. Even if you do not subscribe to Shinto beliefs, you can still buy an Omamori and take care of it, as this belief is inclusive.

An Omamori is an amulet, shaped like a vertical rectangle with a triangular flap sticking out at the top, tied with a special ribbon in a hole punched through that flap. The amulet is made of an envelope, which can be constructed out of many different materials; paper, wood, cotton, and brocaded silk are common. Each Omamori is dedicated to a certain kami in either Shintoism or Buddhism, so within that envelope is a special prayer written on a piece of paper.

An Omamori should never be opened, to keep the prayers inside sealed and potent. Once you purchase it, you are supposed to carry it around with you all the time. Most people attach it to their bags, walls, wallets, vehicles, or wear it as a necklace. In fact, the very name of this charm is the Japanese honorific form of the act of protecting.

By Igor1045 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

At the end of the year, Omamori is sent back to shrines where they are properly disposed of, as they supposedly have absorbed all the bad luck and misfortune that could have happened to you that year. People begin their years by buying new Omamori, thus refreshing the power of the charm. 

Buy IT Charms at Kanda Myojin For Luck With Electronics

Do you have a device or computer that seems to keep crashing at the worst times possible? Or perhaps it’s a printer that just doesn’t want to do its job when you need it. If those situations sound familiar, then you may want to purchase a special IT (information technology) charm from Kanda Myojin to help prevent this from happening. 

These charms are considered Omamori, even if they do not come in the same format as the traditional Omamori. It’s a credit-card sized charm made to look like computer hardware, complete with etchings of chips, and the signature green color that is often found on a computer’s motherboard. 

Experience Tanabata in the Kanda Myojin Shrine

Tanabata is another festival, which is translated as “Evening of the Seventh”. It celebrates the anticipated meeting of deities in love, Hikoboshi, and Orihime. Because they were separated by the milky way, they are fated to meet only once a year, which is hailed with festivities. 

Although they do not fully celebrate Tanabata in this shrine, they do honor it with a ceremony at 4 PM on July 7. Special en-musubi amulets are sold, which represent “tying the knot”. These reinforce romantic relationships and bring luck to couples who avail of this special charm. 

Come Celebrate the Opening of the Kanda Matsuri; The Festival of the Kanda Myojin Shrine

Tokyo celebrates three major Shinto festivals, and the Kanda Matsuri (written as “神田祭”) is one of them. It occurs on either day of the weekend that is nearest the 15th of May. Notably, it is not celebrated every year as it exchanges its celebration date with Sanno Matsuri, another important festival. So, Kanda Matsuri is celebrated every odd year. 

This festival is held to celebrate the victory of Tokugawa Ieyasu, which happened in the battle of Sekigahara in the 17th century. He would continue to rule Japan under the Tokugawa Shogunate until the Meiji Restoration. In these parades, up to 200 mikoshis (a divine palanquin) are carried around. Dancers, musicians, and floats also add to the merrymaking.

Open Hours of the Kanda Shrine

The Kanda Shrine does not have any opening or closing hours, as it is always open. It does not have any closing days. Admission is free. 

Kanda Shrine, and Its Portrayal In “Love Live!”

Because this shrine is featured in the Love Live series, fans of the franchise often visit it. Love Live is an ongoing comedy in the form of manga, anime television series, light novel, original video animation, and game. The Kanda Myojin shrine is seen in Episode 10 in season 2, as shrine maidens are offered help by the show’s characters, Nico Yazawa and Eli Ayase.

Transportation and Accommodation Around Kanda Myojin

This shrine is only a 5-minute walk away from the JR/Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line in the Ochanomizu Station. It’s also a 5-minute walk away from the Shin-ochanomizu station’s Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line. Everything in Tokyo is near, so even if you’re coming from Shinjuku, it’ll only take you around 21 minutes at least to travel there.

The station’s address on the map is 2-16-2, Soto-Kanda, Chiyoda, Tokyo, 101-0021.

A temple you may want to visit which is nearby is the Yushima Seido. All around both areas are dozens of hotel options, as well as package deals that let you avail of an official guide or person who can guide you around the nearby attractions.

Why You Should Visit Kanda Myojin

Having thick cultural and historical significance, Kanda Myojin shrine exudes a vibrant energy that shouldn’t be missed out by tourists in the area. Plus, admission is free. You may also be bestowed good luck if you buy an Omamori, and pay your respects to the enshrined kami.