Tokyo is known as the most populated city in the world. Consequently life in Tokyo can often be fast-paced, and for someone who is not accustomed to life in a global city it can be quite overwhelming. Fortunately, there is an escape to the hustle and bustle of the city. Scattered all across the city are beautiful temples, shrines, and parks which serve as oases in the urban jungle that is Tokyo.
It is unlikely to go anywhere without running into a small pocket of nature. My first day in Tokyo I went on a walk to explore the area around my dorm, and during my short walk around the block I ran into three temples/shrines. The contrast between the old architectural designs and nature against the modern design of Tokyo has a way of inviting you in. It feels like the temples and shrines are finding you just as much as you are finding them. So long as you act in a respectful manner I do not think you will experience any opposition to spending some time in the area. Typically there have not been many (or any) people at the temples or shrines when I visited, but time of day and location definitely factor into this. In my experience even the busiest temples and shrines still were quiet and peaceful. The most impressive of the temples I visited was the Zojoji Temple near the Tokyo Tower, and the most impressive of the shrines was the Meiji Shrine located next to Harajuku Station (both can be seen in the pictures I have posted). I have visited some nice parks in Tokyo, however I do not find myself running into them nearly as much as I do shrines and temples.
Constantly being surrounded by crowds of people can become exhausting. When being surrounded by buildings and people all day, Tokyo’s many temples, shrines, and parks start feeling like portals to another world. In addition to being a place to unwind when feeling overwhelmed, they are also great windows into Japanese culture. The Buddhist temples are often not far from Shinto shrines. The interaction between these two religions is very unique to Japan. I do not think two religions have lived together so harmoniously. It seems to me that most Japanese people participate in both Buddhism and Shintoism at the same time. I think this open mentality can be felt when visiting the temples and shrines. Nobody will approach you to ask if you are Buddhist or Shinto because nobody is really concerned about it. This adds to the warm, inviting aura to these places.
To summarize, Tokyo’s temples, shrines, and parks can be fantastic escapes from the hectic city and are great windows into one of the most unique aspects of Japanese culture.