Many slopes, temples and shrines, and the maze-like back alleys of the gourmet area; Yotsuya Arakicho and temple district in Shinjuku.

Are you aware that the area around Yotsuya-sanchome station in Shinjuku has a lot to see?
Located around the station, ‘Arakicho town’ in a maze of stone-paved alleys, and ‘the Yotsuya temple district’ with about 25 temples and shrines, are next to each other with Shinjuku-dori Avenue running in between. Both areas are fine places to stroll around. You will encounter the old history and various nostalgic moments here and there.
I wanted this area to be private, but I’ve got to tell you after all! Let’s walk around this appealing Yotsuya area together!

2017-11-03   Culture, Travel Destinations, Tokyo,


【 CONTENTS 】

Reminiscences of the Showa era and stone-paved alleys. Let’s walk around the maze-like town with its long history.

A row of restaurants and bars along a narrow back alley.

Let’s start walking from Arakicho town.
In this area during the Edo Period, there used to be a huge residential site of Matsudaira Settsu-no-Kami, the feudal lord of the Mino-Takasu Clan, the present southern part of Gifu Prefecture. Since the residential site was open to the public after the Meiji Restoration, it has become a popular unique landscape in Tokyo, for its pond and waterfall that flows into that pond.
Arakicho lies in a bowl-shaped landscape, unique even for Tokyo. You will be able to feel it while walking around this topographically complicated area with height differences. Therefore, you will see many stone steps here and there.

The steps that are commonly known as “Montmartre’s steps”

The pond below is the Muchi-no-Ike, or the pond of the whip in Tsunokami Benzaiten Shrine, which is located at the bottom of the bowl-shaped landscape.

Muchi-no-Ike (the pond of the whip)

According to an old book in the Edo Period, it is said that Ieyasu TOKUGAWA who was a warrior, statesman, and founder of the Tokugawa shogunate, washed his riding whip with the spring water flowing down into this pond when he visited here for hawking.
The present pond is far smaller than the original one because it was reclaimed. However, don’t you think it’s amazing that a pond with an age more than 300 years old still remains in front of us?

A small shrine that stands by the side of the pond is ‘Tsunokami Benzaiten’.

Tsunokami Benzaiten

This shrine was originally located on the side of the original pond but was relocated to its current position in 1956. Since then, it is known as a place to worship the guardian deity of local residents.

Now then, let’s go up the steps by the shrine.

The steps by the Tsunokami Benzaiten

When you reach the top, go forward on the path. You’ll find the second spot to see, Kanemaru Inari Shrine’, located close by a small playground.

Kanemaru Inari Shrine

This shrine is built at the center of Arakicho town. It has existed since the era of Matsudaira Settsu-no-Kami residential site and was built here to house a guardian deity of the Matsudaira clan. Same as the Tsunokami Benzaiten, this shrine also watches over the people in Arakicho.

Arakicho

  • 1.Tshunokami Benzaiten:10-9, Arakicho, Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo
  • 2.Kanemaru Inari Shrine:Arakicho, Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo

 

Arakicho as a gourmet town hideaway that attracts gourmet lovers.

Arakicho has a long history and is a known as a gourmet town lined with about 250 restaurants and bars. These restaurants and bars are not located at very prominent places and have not prominent appearances to attract attention, but there are even some Michelin-starred restaurants in this narrow lot.
As you can see when you walk around, there are many stone-paved alleys which are crowded with small restaurants and bars here and there. You will feel like exploring this town while you pass through those alleys. The phrase ‘Rojiura no Meiten’, the literal meaning is ‘well-established restaurant on a back alley’ is often used by those who try to explain about Arakicho town. This town is well known as a gourmet town where gourmet lovers gather in Tokyo.

There are suitable back alleys for exploring here and there.

Arakicho Town with contrasting aspects during the day and night.

When evening comes, the atmosphere of this town totally changes.
Even though it is located in a large city close to Shinjuku, Arakicho has an ambience like a secret district hideaway. Because this town is located back from the main street and has a quiet and modest atmosphere arising from its the character of the place with loads of eateries in the form of narrow lots in narrow back alleys.

The town begins to be lit by lights around the front doors and the lights shine on stone alleys at night. And, this town that used to be a Geisha district until around 1970s, is full of chic and spicy atmosphere. It is crowded with gourmet lovers coming toward ‘Rojiura no Meiten’ in this town.

It will be fun to try finding your favorite restaurant while strolling around maze-like back alleys!

Arakicho after dark

Yotuya Teramachi, where there are so many temples and slopes!

After walking around Arakicho, let’s go back to Shinjuku-sanchome Station, and cross Shinjuku-dori avenue, then head over to Teramachi or the temple district.

Suga-cho town and Wakaba town are located at the south-west side area of Gaienhigashi-dori and Shinjuku-dori, and there are about 25 temples and shrines.
Walking around this quiet residential neighborhood, you’ll see temples and shrines everywhere.
This area has a complicated landscape with valley and plateaus, like Arakicho in a bowl-shaped landform, so many hills and cliff walls lie here.

Kannon-zaka slope
Tofukuin-zaka slope(Also called ‘Tenno-zaka slope’)

Most slopes have signs that explain the origin of the slopes’ names at the beginning and end of the slopes. The historical information from the signs make your walk much more interesting!

A shrine that was featured in the movie ‘Your Name’, and a temple that houses the grave of the famous Ninja, Hattori Hanzo.

Among temples and shrine in this area, Suga Shrine is especially popular with tourists.
The long steps that lead to this shrine appeared in the last scene of the hit anime movie ‘Kimi no na wa’ or ‘Your Name’.
After releasing the movie, the steps in Suga Shrine became very popular, and many fans visited to take pictures.

Suga Shrine has an ancient and honorable origin as a local guardian deity of Yotsuya area.
Beside the famous steps, this shrine has many sights to see, such as its beautiful main hall and the pictures of the “Thirty-Six Immortals of Poetry” dedicated to the shrine in 1836, which is also a Tangible Cultural Property of the Shinjuku Ward.

Suga Shrine
The steps of ‘Your Name’

Please check this article out if you want to know more about Suga Shrine!

There is also another famous temple, Sainen-ji Temple. It was founded by ‘THE’ Hattori Hanzo (服部 半蔵) in 1593.
To the general public, Hattori Hanzo is known as a legendary Ninja from Iga Province in Mie Prefecture. However, he was actually not a Ninja, but a feudal warlord who had performed great military exploits under Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder and first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan.
The name of ‘Hattori Hanzo’ is not his unique name. It is the name succeeded to the family that led the group of Iga ninjas, something like a name for the position.
It was only the first Hattori Hanzo Yasunari who actively worked as a Ninja. Hattori Hanzo, whom we usually imagine when we heard of his name, is the second Hattori Hanzo Masanari, a founder of Sainen-ji Temple.

Sainen-ji Temple contains the grave of Hanzo Masanari and the actual pike (a Tangible Cultural Property of the Shinjuku ward) that Ieyasu gave him. His pike as the temple’s treasure suffered damages at the head and arrow point from the war. However, it still has dignity, with its 258cm length and 7.5kg weight. There are even foreign tourists that visit this place only to see this pike.

The grave of Hanzo Masanari
The pike that Ieyasu gave to Hanzo Masanari.

Although Teramachi is a very interesting district to tour around, these places are not sightseeing facilities, but sacred temples and shrines. Please visit them quietly with good manners!
If you have something that you want to observe, please confirm with the temple (or the shrine) on the possibility to observe before visiting!

Teramachi(Temple district)

  • 1.Suga Shrine:5, Sugacho, Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo
  • 2.Sainen-ji Temple:2-9, Wakaba, Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo

 

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AUTHOR

Waddy

Waddy

writer/ translator

Born and raised in Tokyo. A legitimate “Edokko” or Tokyoite. I love wandering and experiencing unusual things. Japan is where I was born and raised, but it’s still full of mystery to me. I’d like to share some of my endeavors with you.

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