There are plenty of amazing shrines and temples scattered across Japan, and each one is worth visiting for one reason or another, especially if you’re interested in Japanese history and culture. But one shrine, in particular, really stands out for the otaku traveller and is worth visiting even if history and shrines aren’t normally your thing. That shrine is Kanda Myojin Shrine, conveniently located in Tokyo’s most famous otaku neighbourhood of Akihabara. That means it's a great break from playing in the game centres and snatching up second-hand merchandise all day, as it's just a few minutes’ walk away from the main streets of Akihabara.
If you’re wondering why Kanda Myojin Shrine is a destination for otaku, well, look no further. We are going to have a look at the shrine itself first so you have a bit of background info on its history, and then we will tell you why it should be on your otaku travel itinerary. Just how much Kanda Myojin Shrine has embraced otaku culture despite being over 1000 years old may surprise you!
Kanda Myojin Shrine Info
2-16-2 Sotokanda, Chiyoda City, Tokyo 101-0021
Nearest train line(s)
“Suehirocho Station” - Tokyo Metro Ginza Line
“Ochanomizu Station” - Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line
|Cost of Admission||N/A|
|Hours of Operation|| Time and days|
9:00 - 17:00
Kanda Myojin has fully embraced the otaku culture of its surrounding neighbourhood. Every August, the shrine hosts an anime-themed festival called Noryo Matsuri. It has many of the same elements a traditional festival at any shrine would have, but with an anime twist! like the traditional bon dancing that is an essential part of the festival is all done to anime music.
There’s also plenty of snacks and other souvenirs to buy, and over 40,000 people usually come to celebrate together. When the Noryo Matsuri had to be cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19, Kanda Myojin couldn’t be stopped; they used the extremely popular Nintendo Switch game Animal Crossing: New Horizons to create a “dream island” that anyone in the world could visit that recreated the entire shrine along with the Noryo Festival! They even included download codes for clothing they recommended your avatar wear to visit.
Below is a full tour of the dream island that Kanda Myojin Shrine posted (that’s right, the shrine not only has a Nintendo Switch it also has Youtube!). An extra benefit of creating this dream island is that both the festival and the shrine are accessible to anyone in the world, and at any time!
Noryo Matsuri at Kanda Myojin Shrine - Animal Crossing: New Horizons dream island tour
You can also check the shrine’s official Japanese website to learn some of the bon dances that are usually done at the Noryo Festival here! <https://www.kandamyoujin.or.jp/atsumori/
Most recently, Kanda Myojin Shrine held a special launch festival for the PlayStation 5. Because there couldn’t be any special in-store events held due to COVID-19 for the launch of the new Japanese system, the shrine hosted an outdoor party instead. They used projection mapping in front of the main gate to display the PlayStation logo, along with the four button symbols and some cool lighting so anyone could stop by and enjoy the launch party. It was also a form of praying for success for the PlayStation 5! As the “console wars” between it and the new Xbox Series X rage on, only time will tell if Kanda Myojin’s support will help the PlayStation 5 emerge victorious. You can check out a short clip from it below!
As we said earlier, Kanda Myojin Shrine is already in a convenient location for otaku as it's just a short walk from the main streets of Akihabara. In Akihabara, there are plenty of first- and second-hand anime shops stuffed to the ceiling with figures, keychains, pins, stationary, plushies, and more. There are also quite a few game centres, a plethora of maid cafes and other themed cafes, cosplay shops, and doujinshi stores. It's easy to spend at least one entire day otaku sight-seeing on the busy main streets. It's nice to take a break and enjoy some peace and quiet at Kanda Myojin Shrine while still appreciating its otaku significance.
Before you leave the shrine, be sure to buy a few souvenirs to remember your experience there. If you want to get something very traditional, check out the omamori (good luck charms), ema (prayer boards), or omikuji (fortunes). Kanda Myojin has two omamori that you can’t find just anywhere - Love Live charms, and even a blessing for success in Information Technology! These all make for really great souvenirs for yourself, or for your friends and family back home. They usually aren’t very expensive, either, so it can give a bit of tradition to your collection of things you buy in Akihabara!
If you do decide to purchase an ema in particular, you can also write your hopes and prayers on it and leave it at the shrine so the gods can read it and maybe even grant your wishes. Don’t worry about the language barrier because it's fine to write in your native tongue. If you’re an artist, you can even draw some anime art on it, which is also totally acceptable! You might even see some that other people have left, so check them out for inspiration.
There is value in visiting any shrine or temple on a visit to Japan, and they each have their own unique things to offer. But Kanda Myojin Shrine is arguably the most catered specifically to otaku - and not only does it have strong otaku connections in anime, they fully embrace otaku visitors! Kanda Myojin Shrine is also quite modern, maintaining a regular Twitter and YouTube presence so it's easy to see what is going on there from wherever you are in the world.
Until you can visit yourself, be sure to check their social media and tour their dream island on Animal Crossing; New Horizons. Then when you are able to make it to Tokyo, be sure to take some time out of your inevitable trip to Akihabara to stop by!
Have you ever been to Kanda Myojin Shrine before? What would you love to see if you could visit now? Are you going to tour their dream island, or learn some of the bon dances? Would you like to learn more about the space where traditional Japan and modern Japan overlap like this? We would love to see all your questions and comments!