Standing at the base of the stone staircase, looking up at the Atago Shrine, can be an intimidating sight. Atago hill is over 26 meters above sea level and atop this giant stone staircase is one of Tokyo's hidden gems: the Atago Shrine.
The shrine was originally built in 1603 but repeatedly destroyed throughout the years. The one that now rests on this spot was built in 1958, in the same style as the original.
As you walk up the 'Shussei no Ishiden' stairs, take a moment to look out over the city beginning to reveal itself. The shrine was first built atop this hill so soldiers could see any fires erupting in the city. Although the view is now slightly obscured by the tall buildings built up around Tokyo, you can still imagine what that skyline initially looked like.
Each step you ascend, as you walk up the stone staircase, represents success in your life. Take a moment of reflection as you walk to think about successes you've had in your life your thankful for or future successes you wish to develop. The legend goes that a young samurai rode his horse all the way up the stone steps to deliver a plum-blossom branch to the Shogun. His horse died making the steep ascent, but the Shogun provided the samurai with an excellent future career to reward him for the sacrifice.
The Shinto god of Atago Shrine is, rightly so, the god of fire, Homusubi no Mikoto. But there are also a few smaller shrines in the same location where you can worship Mizuhanome no Mikoto, the god of water, Ōyamazumi no Mikot, god of mountains and Yamato Takeru no Mikoto, god of the military.
Atop this hill, you feel like you're miles away from the city itself. The rustic and ancient feeling of the landscape and the architecture allows you to step back in time. Below, you can see the Haiden. The haiden is the place people come to offer their prayers.
Before you enter one of the shrines, you step up to the water fountain, complete with a bronze dragon spewing water, to cleanse your hands, mouth and soul before stepping into the ethereal world.
The striking vermillion coloured gate you enter the main shrine through, complete with ornate Japanese designs, stands out in contrast against the greenery surrounding it. Like a diamond in the rough.
Amongst the shrines, is a small, dark pond filled with lucky koi fish.
Various visitors throw fish food into the pond and immediately, you'll see hundreds of fish floating to the top of the water. Almost jumping out of the pond to score the most food.
Despite the long walk up the steep staircase, there is no doubt, that this is one of the most special shrines in all of Tokyo and worth the effort. Perhaps you will be rewarded for your effort just as the first samurai was.