One of the most famous “Temple Shrines” (temples that also functioned as shrines – it is a long a complicated story about the role of Japan’s two major religions Buddhism and Shinto) in Tokyo is the Toyokawa Inari Tokyo Betsuin in Tokyo’s Moto Akasaka district (near both Nagatacho stations and the famous Akasaka Mitsuke stations). Erected as a branch office of the main Toyokawa Inari in Aichi Prefecture, it has been tremendously popular from the day it was opened in 1828 to this day. During the years after its founding, the temple shrine was moved and the buildings rearranged, one of them being one of my favorite buildings in Tokyo; the tiny Okunoin (奥の院). It looks very much like an ordinary shrine from the outside, except that it is strikingly white (which is quite unusual), but on the inside it looks like any rural temple complete with buddhist art and statues. During the Hatsumode season this year (early January) the Okunoin building was opened to the public and I got my first chance to poke around outside. I would have loved to spend more time in here but lots of people were lining up outside waiting to get in so I had to be quick with my camera.
The Tokyokawa Inari Bestuin is very popular with celebrities and if you have a chance it is a great spot to go for the New Year’s celebrations, from about half an hour before midnight on the 31st to the Coming of Age day in early January.
Some areas of Tokyo are famous without anyone really going there, like for example Akasaka. During the day it’s a typical business area, right up there with Toranomon, Kanda and Yaesu. At night, except for the entertainment district just around Akasaka-Mitsuke station there wasn’t much to do there until the area now known as Akasaka Sakasu was redeveloped a couple of years ago, inspired by Roppongi Hills (Hills – Sakasu, get it? Or maybe I’m just crazy) and Omotesando Hills. I’ll save that tongue twister of a place to later, Akasaka Sakasu deserves a post of it’s own, but here’s three snap shots I took taking a walk from Akasaka to Akasaka-Mitsuke station. Big city cool, tall buildings, red lights and fast cars. The last photo is very close to Akasaka-Mitsuke station, a street and a station that has been under construction at least during the decade that I have lived in this city. They just never seem to finish it! And again, please forgive the louse quality of these photos. They’re just handheld snaps. Whenever art directors ask me why I don’t do stock photography I just show them these and they get it. Anyway, if you have the time to visit Akasaka, the best time might be during a Wednesday or Friday early evening. Sometimes the streets are just packed with businessmen wanting a good night out! There’s also plenty of really good, not too expensive restaurants if you’re feeling ready to splash out on something better than your regular teishoku. Enjoy!