Although Shinjuku’s Hanazono Shrine Hanazono Jinja) looks like an unassuming place, it’s a historically important site and hosts a variety of colorful weekly and seasonal events. It contrasts with the bright lights and skyscrapers of other parts of Shinjuku, and provides a great escape from the frenzy of the central city.
The Hanazono Shrine is gated with a red Torii, indicating that it’s an Inari shrine, dedicated to the god of fertility and worldly successes. It’s been damaged, destroyed, and rebuilt since the 17th century, and is one of Tokyo’s most important Shinto shrines. Businesspeople come to pray for success; it hosts a Sunday flea market; and it’s one of the liveliest places to celebrate New Year in Tokyo.
Travelers usually visit Hanazono Shrine when exploring the Shinjuku neighborhood on foot. Night walking tours are a particularly good way of visiting, as you’ll see the shrine illuminated.
Things to Know Before You Go
- It can be quite easy to miss the shrine in the busy area. Look for two guardian dogs sitting at the entrance gate.
- Festival days can get extremely crowded at the shrine, so if you don’t like crowds it’s best to avoid going there at this time.
- There is no entrance fee.
How to Get There
The Hanazono Shrine is in the same area as the well-known Isetan department store, between Shinjuku and Kabukicho. The best way to get there is on the JR Odakyu or Keio lines to Shinjuku station (east exit), or the Marunouchi or Shinjuku lines to Shinjuku-Sanchome Station (exit B3). As with many places in Tokyo, if getting there by train it’s important to exit the station at the right exit.
When to Get There
Traditional Japanese festivals are particularly well celebrated at the Hanazono Shrine, and are a good time to visit. The Tori no Ichi festival held in parts of Tokyo every November is celebrated with flair at Hanazono Jinja; markets are held, and the shrine is lit up with lanterns at night.
A Night Out in Kabukicho
The Kabukicho district, near the Hanazono Shrine, is one of Tokyo’s busiest entertainment districts, as well as one of its most notorious red-light areas. Although seedy in parts, it’s worth an evening of exploration. Check out a robot cabaret (which is exactly what it sounds like) or have a drink at a tiny, curtained hole-in-the-wall.