If you are looking for a great Tokyo activity for the family on January 1st – 3rd, try the Minato Seven Gods Walk visiting six Shinto shrines and two Buddhist temples in Minato-ku. There are eight stops representing the seven gods and the treasure ship they ride. Our family completed our first walk last New Year’s and can’t wait to do it again in 2018! A fun and active way to visit temples over the New Year’s break. It took us about three hours on bike that included waiting time at each temple to pray and get our lucky stamp. Walking takes about 4-5 hours depending on the number of rest stops. It is fun to buy the commemorative paper
plaque (available at any of the temples or
jinjas) which has the name of each temple and can be stamped at each temple. The plaque cost 600 yen and each stamp is 300 yen at the temples and shrines. A treasure hunt to find all the temples and complete the plaque.
Minato Seven Gods Walk
The Seven Gods of Fortune (七福神 Shichi Fukujin) usually called the Seven Lucky Gods in English, are the seven gods of good fortune in Japanese mythology and folklore* (source Wikipedia). You can often find the seven God in cravings and ink drawings.
- Hotei, the fat and happy god of abundance and good health
- Jurōjin, god of long life
- Fukurokuju, god of happiness, wealth and longevity
- Bishamonten, god of warriors
- Benzaiten (Benten-sama), goddess of knowledge, art and beauty, especially music
- Daikokuten (Daikoku), god of wealth, commerce and trade. Ebisu and Daikoku are often paired and represented as carvings or masks on the walls of small retail shops
- Ebisu, god of fishers or merchants, often depicted carrying a sea bream
The seven gods are often depicted on their ship, the Takarabune (宝船), or “Treasure Ship.” The tradition holds that the seven gods will arrive in town on the New Year and distribute fantastic gifts to worthy people. Children often receive red envelopes emblazoned with the Takarabune which contain gifts of money around the New Year.
The Minato Seven Gods Walk can be started and ended at any of the eight locations.
Ask for the English map at your first location which will guide you on the right path. At the last location you visit you the date will be written on to the plague with the last stamp. The red flag show above is outside each of the shrines and temples which makes it a bit easier to find your way.
Our Minato Seven Gods walk (bike ride) path was as follows:
1. Hikawa Shrine (Bishamonten God) – 1-4-23 Moto Azabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo – The history of this particular shrine dates back to 939 AD when it was built by Minamoto no Tsunemoto.
2. Daihouji Temple (Daikokuten God) – 1-1-10 Moto Azabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo – This temple was established in 1597. A fox deity (Inari-sama) is enshrined to the left just inside the two-story-tall main gate. The mame-maki (bean-throwning) ceremony held each year on Setsubun (February 3) is very popular.
3. Juban Inari Shrine (Takarabune “Treasure Ship”) – 1-4-6 Azabu Juban, Minato-ku, Tokyo – This shrine houses the legendary treasure boat that carried the seven deities. A stone image of the treasure boat stands to the left of the torii; on the right is a stone sculpture of parent and child frogs, representing the “Gamaike Legend,” said to protect against burns and fire.
4. Housyuin Temple (Benzaiten God) – 4-8-55 Shibakoen, Minato-ku, Tokyo – This temple is spelled Housyuin on the walk map, but if you search online look for Hoshuin. This Temple supposedly was created in the 800s, and really needs some care so please give a good donation. When you are there look for the statues of the frog and snake, and carving of a slug. The snake eats the frog, the frog eats the slug, and the slug can burn the snake which is symbolic of the circle of life.
5. Kumano Shrine (Ebisu God) – 2-2-14 Azabudai, Minato-ku, Tokyo – Cute little shrine tucked in behind the Tokyo American Club. This shrine is said to have been established in ancient times, but the actual history is unknown as the records were destroyed in a fire in 1703.
6. Hisakuni Shrine (Hotei Son God) – 2-1-16 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo – This temple is nestled right below the American Embassy residence. Note the wait to get our stamp was by far the longest at this Jinja. When you climb the stairs to enter the shrine notice the guardian dogs and on the right two large stone lanterns. Two the right of the main altar is the fortune dispensing box that only cost 10 yen. Pop in your ten yen to learn what the New Year holds for you on the bilingual fortune slips.
7. Tenso Shrine (Fukurokuju God) – 7-7-7 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo – This Shrine is in the middle of a construction site right now but still accessible. Once you climb the stairs to the Shine, look to you right to see a cute red torii and a fox deity. Legend has it that a dragon flew from Edo Bay every night to set a votive light at the time the shrine was founded, and the name Ryudo-Shinmei-gu comes from the word meaning “dragon light.”
8. Sakurada Jinja (Jurojin God) – 3-2-17 Nishi Azabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo – Located right across from the Grand Hyatt Sakurda Jinja is dedicated to Juro-jin who bestows long life and was originally established in Kasumigaseki in 1180. It was restored by Oota Dokan and rededicated at its present location in 1624.