On a sunny October day I had an appointment in Akihabara. Since I was staying in Ueno and the weather was perfect for a walk, I decided against taking the subway. Just around the corner of my hotel I saw a shrine, and even though I was pretty late for my appointment, I had to stop. There was a big white goose sitting right in the middle of the yard! So I took a few quick pictures to capture this unusual moment and then hurried on to my appointment. I decided to come back the next day and visit the shrine.
On my second visit, the goose was still there—snoozing next to its water bucket! I had a look at the shrine and as soon as the goose noticed that there was a visitor, it kept a wary eye on me. I walked around in the yard of Shitaya Jinja, which was built in 730 on the Ueno plateau. From there it had to move in 1627 due to the construction of Kanei Temple north of Ueno Park. The shrine was moved two more times until it reached its present location in 1928.
At the shrine you can buy fortune slips and lucky charms, and they offer a lot of information about Shinto in English. Right next to the main building are several pamphlets you can take for free and learn about the Shinto festivals in Japan and the customs linked to that religion.
You can also read about how to worship at a shrine. First, you have to purify yourself by washing your hands with water. For this ritual you take the dipper from the water reservoir you’ll find at the entrance of every shrine. Pour some water over your left hand, then your right hand, then pour water in your left hand and clean your mouth with it. Then, once again pour water on your left hand. When you’re done with this ritual, you can go to the main building and throw a coin into the wooden box. Then you may ring the bell and thus attract the deities’ attention. You have to bow two times, then clap your hands two times and bow once more. At Shitaya Jinja this action might be accompanied by a loud “honk-honk” as the goose really liked to comment on the ringing bell! I stayed at Shitaya Jinja for about 20 minutes and every time the bell rang, the goose gave feedback.
Shitaya Jinja is located south of Inaricho Station. Take exit number one and walk west and you will soon see the big red torii (wooden gate) on your left. If you are looking for accommodation in that area, I would recommend HOTEL MYSTAYS Ueno-Iriyaguchi. From there you have easy access to the shrine and other places of interest, such as the Hachiko Statue or Asakusa Kaminarimon.