Now Reading
5 of the Cutest Representations of Tenjin in Tokyo. Travel writer and Shrine Enthusiast Ayaha Yaguchi Chooses.

5 of the Cutest Representations of Tenjin in Tokyo. Travel writer and Shrine Enthusiast Ayaha Yaguchi Chooses.

Writer Ayaha Yaguchi loves Shinto shrines and covers various locations around Japan. In this article, she provides inspiration for a stroll around Tokyo visiting shrines dedicated to Tenjin, the Shinto god of learning, with a focus on shrines offering cute charms!
Tenjin’s bullfinche

5 of the cutest representations of Tenjin in Tokyo

It’s been 7 years since I started visiting shrines during the “Goshuin boom” (when tourists flocked to shrines and temples to collect each institution’s unique commemorative stamp).
From Inari shrines to Hachiman shrines, Yasaka shrines and Hikawa shrines, there are many shrines with the same name throughout the country, but I believe the easiest to understand and wander are the Tenjin shrines.

Shrines with names like Tenjin, Tenmangu, and Kitano are all within the same category of “Tenjin shrines.” Kitano Tenmangu Shrine in Kyoto and Daizaifu Tenmangu Shrine in Fukuoka are especially famous.

“rubbing cows” (撫で牛)

These shrines are dedicated to Sugawara no Michizane, the god of learning, whose symbols include plum trees, bronze statues called “rubbing cows” that visitors rub for health and good luck, and sweets sold in front of the shrine gate.

In older areas of town where Tenjin shrines are located, there are often shops selling famous sweets like umegae mochi (a sweet grilled dumpling filled with red bean paste) and tenjin kashi (sweets made of sugar and molded into auspicious shapes, such as plum blossoms or Sugawara no Michizane himself), so memories of visits to a Tenjin shrine are often paired with those of sweet treats.

Umegae mochi in Dazaifu Temmangu.(photo by Tabiijyo-chan)

In addition, those who are familiar with Tenjin know of the shrines’ “hidden mascot.”
On January 25th every year, a day known as “the first Tenjin day of the year,” a ritual called “Usokae*” is held at Tenjin shrines nationwide. During this ritual, the shrines sell wooden carvings of bullfinches. Some shrines sell out of these carvings in the blink of an eye, so I feel lucky whenever I encounter these bullfinches.

* A Shinto ritual that ousts bad luck and invites good luck through the exchange of wooden bullfinch figurines. The Japanese word for “bullfinch” is uso, which is also the word for “lie.” The word tori means both “bird” and “take.” Therefore, by exchanging bullfinches, one transforms the misfortunes of the previous year into “lies” and “takes” good fortune in exchange.

Without further ado, I’ll introduce my five recommended Tenjin shrines in Tokyo. Since I just introduced the notion of the first Tenjin day of the year, I’ll talk about some shrines that are very popular during this time and what their bullfinch figurines are like.

Kitano is to Kyoto as Kameido is to Tokyo!
Kameido Tenjin Shrine

When discussing Tenjin shrines in Tokyo, one cannot leave out this shrine.
The moment you pass through the large torii gate and climb the moon bridge, you will see the wisteria trellis and majestic shrine before you, and the Tokyo Sky Tree on your left. Right away you will see views that will make you glad that you came.
The shrine grounds are spacious, and it’s fun to visit not only the Tenjin shrine, but also the Benzaiten, Utaki, and Hanazono shrines that are also on the premises.

You can see the Tokyo Sky Tree!

By the way, at Kameido Tenjin, the names of the plum tree varieties are hung on each trunk. There are numerous varieties of plum tree, and they are like an idol group; when the trees start to bloom, it’s fun to look for the variety that you like best.

On your way home, be sure to stop by the historic confectionary Funabashiya and try the famous kuzumochi.

Tenjin’s bullfinche

Kameido Tenjin’s bullfinches are small and cute little figurines. There are seven different sizes, and you can get a small one for 600 yen. They’re the kind of charms that you’ll find yourself buying a lot of as souvenirs for your loved ones.

Kameido Tenjin Shrine
Kameido Tenjin Shrine ⇒MAP

If a 3D miniature were made, it would definitely be popular!
Gojoten Shrine

This is a shrine nestled on the banks of Shinobazu Pond in Ueno. It was founded 1,900 years ago.

The legendary prince Yamato Takeru no Mikoto is said to have been the first to worship here when he passed through Ueno on his way to subdue rebels living in Japan’s eastern provinces. Yamato Takeru offered gratitude for a blessing from the god of medicine, and therefore the shrine is said to have the power to heal illness.

The highlight of the shrine are its grounds, which would be interesting as a 3D-printed miniature. The spacious and bright Gojoten Shrine and the small and mysterious Hanazono Inari Shrine are almost stacked on top of one another like bunk beds.

Gojoten and Hanazono Inari are connected by stairs, and part of the shrine’s appeal is the ability to climb up and down and cross back and forth between the two spaces, which have a totally different feel from one another.

Tenjin’s bullfinche

The bullfinch carvings sold at Gojoten Shrine are concealed inside envelopes, so you just have to go for it and pick one. Most of them have silver paper decorating their heads, but a few of them have gold paper decorations.

I like this playfulness from a shrine that otherwise seems very serious.

Gojoten Shrine
Gojoten Shrine ⇒MAP

Get lost in photogenic Edo
Yujima Tenjin Shrine

This is a shrine that makes you wonder whether time and space have twisted back on themselves. Although unmistakably located in the current Reiwa Era, this is a mysterious place where you can catch glimpses of the dashing men and women of the Edo Period among the scenery, as through thin curtains of time have overlapped.

On sunny days, the road approaching the shrine is lined with shops, so I bought some sweet fried buns for 150 yen each (it’s impossible to eat just one) and ate them on the temple grounds.

I gave my greetings to the spirit of Michizane and rubbed the metal “rubbing cow” statue.

“rubbing cow”撫で牛
“rubbing cow”撫で牛

It’s also possible to worship at the Sasatsuka Inari Shrine on the same grounds, and at Togakushi Shrine, where the god of sports, Ame no Tajikarao, is enshrined. On your way home, you can purchase daifuku as a souvenir at the nearby confectionary Tsuruse.

Tsuruse‘s Daifuku is a rice cake stuffed with sweet filling.

Yushima Tenjin’s bullfinch charm is a little unusual; it’s shaped like a stick and looks as though it’s just sprouted up out of the ground. The cute red face makes it look as if the bullfinch drank some of the gods’ sacred sake.

Yujima Tenjin Shrine
Yushima Tenjin ⇒ MAP

A little-known but spectacular spot
Ushi Tenjin Kitano Shrine

This Tenjin shrine has the best view! It’s a small shrine known only to a few, about ten minutes’ walk from the LaQua hot spring spa behind Korakuen Station, but visitors can experience the extraordinary here.
The shrine’s torii gate is an entrance to another world. Climb the shadowy stairs, and the shrine grounds begin at the top. A figure of a cow that has become white and fluffy from all the fortune slips tied to it will welcome you.


Next to the torii are a pair of guardian dog statues, and inside the torii are two “rubbing cow” statues. What’s cute about the cow statues is that they have been rubbed and patted by so many visitors that their horns have been worn away.

There is a rock on the left side of the grounds, facing the shrine, where shogun Minamoto no Yoritomo sat. To think, the illustrious Yoritomo came here! In fact, Minamoto no Yoritomo built this shrine while on an expedition in eastern Japan, in gratitude for the god of learning’s blessing and divine message. Heading back from the shrine, you can see a wonderful view from the top of the stairs of the piercing blue sky and the town below.

The bullfinch from Ushi Tenjin Kitano Shrine comes in a wooden box, wrapped in soft paper. From its chubby appearance, it looks like it will bring good luck.

Ushi Tenjin Kitano Shrine
Ushi Tenjin Kitano Shrine ⇒ MAP

Where the cows and foxes all stare
Hirakawa Tenmangu

The first think I think when I visit Hirakawa Tenmangu is, “So many cows!” There are five “rubbing cow” statues. There is also an Inari shrine on the grounds, so when you pass through the torii fate you will be greeted by both cows and foxes.

It’s easy to think that a shrine in a business district won’t have any charm, but since it’s surrounded by office buildings that block the sunlight, the shrine will sometimes appear to be covered in blue shadows, or the light reflected on the windows of the buildings will shimmer. A nice aspect of shrines in business districts is that sometimes they have a variety of faces; sometimes they appear submerged in water, and other times they are radiant and sparkling. Hirakawa Tenmangu is precisely this kind of shrine.

The bullfinches at Hirakawa Tenmangu are decorated with gold paper on their heads. They have big eyes and a face that anyone would think is cute. They are packaged along with rice crackers. It’s a bullfinch that you’ll want to spend the year with, together at home.

Hirakawa Tenmangu
Hirakawa Tenmangu ⇒ MAP

(* Please note that at each shrine, the bullfinch charms will no longer be available once they are all sold.)

Text&Photographs by  Ayaha Yaguchi

Writer / editor / illustrator. Born in Osaka. Writes mainly for magazines, the web, and advertisements. Ayaha’s areas of expertise are travel, the outdoors, science, and history. She began traveling in 2013 when she became fascinated by natural spots rich in spiritual power, and in 2020 she obtained her first-class boating license. Her current dream is to visit shrines and temples on remote sea islands.

What's Your Reaction?
In Love
Not Sure
View Comments (64)
  • Navy destroyer, was charged with accepting paid travel, the services of prostitutes and Lady Gaga concert tickets from GDMA, prosecutors in southern California said last month clomid 100mg We conducted an educational campaign in schools and hospitals aimed at correcting these popular misconceptions

  • Hello there, just became alert to your blog through Google, and found that it is truly informative. I’m going to be careful for brussels. I will be grateful in case you continue this in future. Lots of other people can be benefited from your writing. Cheers!

  • Terrific paintings! That is the type of information that should be shared across the net. Shame on Google for not positioning this post higher! Come on over and consult with my website . Thanks =)

  • The next time I learn a weblog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as a lot as this one. I imply, I do know it was my option to learn, however I really thought youd have one thing attention-grabbing to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about one thing that you would fix for those who werent too busy looking for attention.

  • I have read a few excellent stuff here. Definitely worth bookmarking for revisiting. I surprise how a lot attempt you put to create this type of great informative website.

  • Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. After all I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again very soon!

  • Thank you for the sensible critique. Me and my neighbor were just preparing to do some research on this. We got a grab a book from our local library but I think I learned more from this post. I’m very glad to see such fantastic info being shared freely out there.

  • I?¦m not positive the place you’re getting your information, but great topic. I needs to spend a while learning more or understanding more. Thank you for fantastic info I was searching for this info for my mission.

  • Nice post. I was checking continuously this blog and I am impressed! Very helpful info specially the remaining part 🙂 I handle such information a lot. I used to be looking for this certain information for a very long time. Thank you and good luck.

  • I?¦m now not sure where you’re getting your information, but good topic. I must spend some time learning much more or understanding more. Thanks for excellent info I was looking for this information for my mission.

  • Get-X – онлайн игра с реальным выводом средств. В неё входят азартные игры, где можно делать ставки, например, Краш.

  • Great – I should certainly pronounce, impressed with your website. I had no trouble navigating through all the tabs as well as related information ended up being truly easy to do to access. I recently found what I hoped for before you know it in the least. Quite unusual. Is likely to appreciate it for those who add forums or something, site theme . a tones way for your client to communicate. Excellent task..

  • Wow that was strange. I just wrote an incredibly long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Regardless, just wanted to say fantastic blog!

  • Very interesting points you have observed, regards for putting up. “Never call an accountant a credit to his profession a good accountant is a debit to his profession.” by Charles J. C. Lyall.

  • Wonderful website. Lots of useful info here. I am sending it to a few friends ans also sharing in delicious. And certainly, thanks for your effort!

  • I used to be very pleased to search out this web-site.I needed to thanks for your time for this excellent read!! I undoubtedly having fun with each little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to take a look at new stuff you weblog post.

  • I’m still learning from you, as I’m improving myself. I absolutely enjoy reading everything that is written on your blog.Keep the information coming. I loved it!

  • Hello There. I discovered your blog the use of msn. That is a really neatly written article. I will make sure to bookmark it and come back to learn more of your helpful info. Thanks for the post. I’ll certainly comeback.

  • Hey, I think your website might be having browser compatibility issues. When I look at your blog site in Chrome, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping. I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other then that, excellent blog!

  • Hi there are using WordPress for your blog platform? I’m new to the blog world but I’m trying to get started and create my own. Do you need any coding expertise to make your own blog? Any help would be really appreciated!

  • certainly like your web site but you have to take a look at the spelling on several of your posts. Several of them are rife with spelling issues and I in finding it very bothersome to tell the truth then again I will definitely come again again.

  • Hello, you used to write magnificent, but the last several posts have been kinda boringK I miss your tremendous writings. Past few posts are just a bit out of track! come on!

  • What i do not understood is in truth how you are not really a lot more smartly-liked than you may be now. You’re very intelligent. You already know therefore significantly in terms of this topic, produced me for my part imagine it from so many varied angles. Its like men and women are not involved except it is one thing to accomplish with Lady gaga! Your individual stuffs excellent. Always maintain it up!

  • Spot on with this write-up, I really assume this website wants rather more consideration. I’ll in all probability be once more to learn far more, thanks for that info.

  • Thank you for sharing excellent informations. Your website is very cool. I’m impressed by the details that you’ve on this web site. It reveals how nicely you perceive this subject. Bookmarked this web page, will come back for extra articles. You, my friend, ROCK! I found simply the info I already searched all over the place and simply could not come across. What a perfect web site.

  • What i do not understood is actually how you’re now not actually much more neatly-appreciated than you might be now. You’re very intelligent. You realize therefore significantly when it comes to this matter, made me for my part imagine it from so many numerous angles. Its like men and women are not fascinated unless it?¦s one thing to accomplish with Woman gaga! Your individual stuffs outstanding. At all times deal with it up!

  • Hi, I think your site might be having browser compatibility issues. When I look at your website in Safari, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping. I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other then that, fantastic blog!

  • Hi there just wanted to give you a brief heads up and let you know a few of the pictures aren’t loading correctly. I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different browsers and both show the same results.

  • Hello there! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a team of volunteers and starting a new project in a community in the same niche. Your blog provided us beneficial information to work on. You have done a marvellous job!

  • obviously like your web site but you have to take a look at the spelling on quite a few of your posts. A number of them are rife with spelling issues and I to find it very bothersome to tell the truth on the other hand I’ll surely come back again.

  • whoah this blog is fantastic i love reading your posts. Keep up the great work! You know, a lot of people are searching around for this info, you could help them greatly.

  • Hi , I do believe this is an excellent blog. I stumbled upon it on Yahoo , i will come back once again. Money and freedom is the best way to change, may you be rich and help other people.

  • Hi! Do you know if they make any plugins to assist with SEO? I’m trying to get my blog to rank for some targeted keywords but I’m not seeing very good gains. If you know of any please share. Appreciate it!

  • I am not positive the place you’re getting your information, however great topic. I must spend some time studying more or understanding more. Thank you for excellent information I was on the lookout for this info for my mission.

  • It’s really a nice and useful piece of info. I am glad that you shared this helpful information with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll To Top