The Machida Tenmangu is a shrine situated in the centre of Machida, only ten minutes from the main train station. And, despite being right at the heart of things, it’s a beautiful oasis of calm and quiet.
Just beyond the bright billboards, cat cafés and concrete car parks lies this little shrine, where you can say your prayers for the kitsune (fox) to deliver to heaven, walk through the traditional red torii gates, and admire the beautiful carvings of the main temple. But, before you do any of that, you must wash your hands and mouth with the purifying water by the front of the shrine.
It’s really lovely to be able to find this little piece of quiet in such a city as busy as Tokyo. It’s a lovely thing, to be able to come out of the local shopping centre and walk ten minutes down the road to a shrine. It’s like finding your own little world.
That’s not to say that the Tenmangu shrine isn’t popular - on the first of every month, there’s an antiques market that brings a lot of visitors. It’s a lovely event even if you’re not looking to buy anything, and an experience that will make you feel that you are part of something truly authentic.
Whether there’s a crowd of people looking for antiques or you’re there by yourself, take some time to admire the fox shrines and the ox statues. You won’t find them at any old shrine, and they are very beautiful. The kitsune may look a little threatening, but so long as you’re polite to them when you approach, they won’t harm you!
When you approach their shrine, you must ring the bell, clap twice, make your prayer, and most importantly, thank them before leaving- according to Japanese lore, they’re foxes are very deceptive and can be quite mischievous, so you must show them respect.
If you go at the end of June, you may find a circular wreath in front of the shrine. This wreath is used for a rite called Nagoshi no Harae, which lets you purify yourself of the sins committed in the first six months of the year, and pray for a blessed second half of the year. To do this, you must walk through the wreath in a figure of 8.
Machida Tenmangu is not difficult to find; however make sure you do not mistake the Sohoin shrine for it, which I admit I did myself. They’re very close together and can look like they’re on the same place on Google maps.
If you’re looking to avoid tourists, this quiet, local shrine is a must.