Hirakawa Tenmangu

Hirakawa-tenmangu Shrine 平河天満宮

Hirakawa Tenmangu is a shrine in the Hirakawacho district of Chiyoda ward, Tokyo, near the western edge of the Imperial Palace. It earns special status for being the shrine nearest to where the Emperor dwells.

Torii gate of Hirawawa Tenmangu, Chiyoda ward, Tokyo
Torii gate of Hirawawa Tenmangu, Hirakawacho, Chiyoda ward, Tokyo
Hirakawa Tenmangu Shrine.
Hirakawa Tenmangu, main shrine


The history of Hirakawa-tenmangu Shrine starts with Ota Dokan (1432-1486), the poet-warrior-monk tasked with designing and building Edo Castle (today's Imperial Palace Tokyo). Ota is said to have had a dream about the Heian era scholar, Sugawara no Michizane (845-903), who is venerated as a deity in Japan. Then the very next day, he happened to be presented with a scroll of one of Sugawara's works. Taking these as a sign, he established a shrine to Sugawara no Michizane on the northern edge of the castle, not far from the Hirakawamon Gate, which he planted with Chinese plum trees - what is today's Bairinzaka (梅林坂 Plum Tree Slope).

Then, in 1607, soon after the first Shogun of the Edo era, Ieyasu Tokugawa, occupied Edo Castle, the shrine was moved to its present location in the area then known as Kaizaka, renamed Hirakawacho after the shrine.

Hirakawa Tenmangu Shrine was the shrine at which all three branches of the ruling Tokugawa clan petitioned at, and every New Year, the head of the shrine was afforded the status of being allowed a personal audience with the Shogun.

Also, being dedicated to Japan's most eminent scholar, Hirakawa Tenmangu shrine has been worshiped at by later scholars, notably the blind scholar Hokiichi Hanawa (1746-1821) and the scholar of Western science, Choei Takano (1804-50), and continues to be associated with learning, and success in learning, to this day. As such, the shrine is a renowned destination for students praying for success in examinations.

Hirakawa Tenmangu suffered destruction several times, the latest being by bombing in the Second World War, and was reconstructed in 1969, the only "original" parts being the copper torii gate that was donated by local residents in 1844, and the stone guardian lions, dating from 1852.

Hirawawa Tenmangu stone ornaments, Chiyoda ward, Tokyo
The god Hotei, a lantern and a cow, Hirawawa Tenmangu, Tokyo
Fudezuka grave for calligraphy brushes, Hirakawa Tenmangu Shrine.
Chikara-ishi cum fudezuka, Hirakawa Tenmangu shrine, Tokyo

Shrine Features

Hirakawa Tenmangu has a quite ornate main hall in the irimoya-zukuri style of shrine architecture, enshrining Sugawara no Michizane.

There are no less than 5 stone cows on the grounds. The cow is associated with Tenjin shrines, which are always shrines for scholars. The most famous one in Tokyo is Yushima Tenjin shrine in east Tokyo. The god Tenjin is usually depicted riding on a cow. Stroking one, or all, of the stone cows here at Hirakawa Tenmangu is believed to endow you with scholarly aptitude.

The stone statue of Hotei, the pot-bellied god of good fortune, was donated by the nearby Josei University.

A path enclosed by closely spaced red wooden torii gates leads you to a shrine-within-a-shrine: the Hirakawa Inari Shrine, which venerates the god Inari, and his messenger, the fox. Beside it is a chikara-ishi ("strength stone") that is also a fudezuka, i.e., a mound covering reverently buried old brushes, reflecting the shrine's scholarly roots.

There is also a kagura hall on the site for ceremonial kagura dancers at the shrine's main festival held on April 25 every year.

Buy an original ema from Hirakawa Tenmangu Shrine

Stone nadeushi cow at Hirakawa Tenmangu Shrine.
Nadeushi "stroking cow," Hirakawa Tenmangu Shrine, Tokyo


Hanzomon Station on the Hanzomon Subway Line, Exit 1, 1 minute's walk
Kojimachi Station on the Yurakucho Subway Line, Exit 1, 3 minutes' walk

1-7-5 Hirakawacho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo

Nearby Hirakawatenmangu Shrine

Nearby Hirakawatenmangu Shrine is the National Theater of Japan (4 minutes' walk) and the Supreme Court of Japan, both of which are beautiful in spring with cherry blossom. The Hanzomon Gate of the Imperial Palace Tokyo is about 6 minutes' walk (Note that access to the Imperial Palace grounds is not possible from the Hanzomon Gate). Just north of the Hanzomon Gate is Chidorigafuchi Park (and, somewhat further north, Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery), flanking the moat of the Imperial Palace. Across from the Park, about 9 minutes walk from the Shrine, is the British Embassy.

The surrounding Hirakawacho and Kojimachi districts are mainly office districts, but full of cafes and restaurants offering a huge range of dining experiences for every budget.

Map of Hirakawatenmangu Shrine

The following is a map of Hirakawatenmangu Shrine and nearby features.

Buy a lucky ema votive plaque for academic success from Hirakawa Tenmangu

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