Hey everyone, how has 2014 treated you? Did you finally get that dream job you wanted? Or maybe you moved, or found a significant other?
With only a little over two months left in the year, you might find yourself already looking forward to what the new year has to offer. If you’re especially eager to get a ‘sneak-peak’ of what 2015 has in store for you, then this new Shrine Cafe located in Tokyo’s Takadanobaba neighborhood may just be the perfect place for you. It only opened its doors on the 14th of this month, but it already promises to fill a niche in Japan’s already abundant and eclectic cafe scene.
But wait–just what the heck is a shrine cafe??
A quintessential aspect of Japan is the omnipresence of Shinto shrines, known as jinja (神社), located throughout the country. Providing a detailed description of jinja is beyond the scope of this article, however, the basic idea is that they serve as dwellings and places of worship for the various kami, or spirits/gods (神), found within the natural world. You can brush up on your knowledge of jinja and learn about some common symbols found at them here.
In the picture above, you may recognize the distinctive red and white garb of the miko, or Shinto shrine priestess/maiden (巫女), from facets of Japanese popular culture. In particular, Sailor Moon‘s Rei Hino and Inuyasha‘s Kikyo come to mind as two examples of anime characters who serve as miko at jinja.
But actually, you won’t find the miko pictured above at a typical Shinto shrine. Instead, you have to go to a new location in Tokyo called Uranai Hiiringu Kafe x Jinja: Kamigaminomori-jinja (占いヒーリングカフェ×神社 神々の森神社), which translates to something like “Fortune-telling and Healing Cafe x Shrine: Forest of Gods Shrine.” Never heard of a shrine cafe before? Don’t worry–neither had we before learning about this place! Let’s explore the new establishment through a photographic tour.
Kamigaminomori is located an easy three-minute walk from Tokyo’s Takadanobaba Station, which can be reached on the Yamanote Line. Upon arriving at its third floor entrance in the Izuei Building, you’ll immediately see that this is no ordinary place by the decorative exterior of the door:
▼The reception desk
As a unique shrine/fortune-teller/cafe combination, the cafe area boasts an impressive stock of over 20 varieties of high-quality tea from around the world.
▼The tea corner and utensils
You should note that Kamigaminomori is not a half-hearted attempt to incorporate a shrine into a cafe, nor is it a full-fledged cafe designed with elements of a shrine in mind. Rather, you can think of them as two separate and complete entities sharing the same space.
Continuing inside, you’ll enter the actual shrine area, which comes complete with a selection of books and a TV displaying images of scenery found at different shrines. The unique atmosphere causes you to completely forget that you’re inside a building.
▼The shrine itself. Throw in a coin, ring the bell and pray to the resident kami.
You’re probably wondering by now the reason for building an indoor shrine in the first place. According to the staff, they wanted to create a calming ambiance that wouldn’t be affected by the weather, as well as a convenient location near the station, particular for women, to come to after a stressful day at work. Furthermore, it’s open till 11pm, so you shouldn’t have a problem getting there in time even if you work overtime. Yup, sounds like the perfect healing place to us!
All of the staff members are professional and fully qualified Shinto priests, counselors, or fortune tellers. Below is an example of a ‘therapy room’ where you can have your fortune told or receive counseling. The atmosphere is a bit different from the open shrine area:
In general, you don’t need to reserve a spot for gaining entry to the shrine and cafe area. After all, you don’t make a reservation when you stop by any other jinja, do you? In addition, the 500 yen (US$4.67) entrance fee gives you unlimited refills of the previously mentioned 20 varieties of tea. Not a bad deal at all, considering how much one cup at Starbucks is going for nowadays…
However, you might want to reserve a place if you’re seeking the fortune-telling or counseling services. By the way, have you been feeling a bit ‘tainted’ recently? Apparently, the staff will even perform free Shinto purifications!
Regardless of the intent of your visit, your time at the Kamigaminomori-jinja Cafe is sure to be memorable and relaxing. Why not take this opportunity to visit a unique establishment that’s so intricately tied to traditional Japanese culture?
神々の森神社 概要/Kamigaminomori-jinja Information
Shop name: Uranai Hiiringu Kafe x Jinja: Kamigaminomori-jinja (“Fortune Healing Cafe x Shrine: Kamigaminomori-jinja“)
Hours: Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays 6pm-11pm (reservations are accepted until 10pm)
Apart from the times listed above, the shop may also be open on a subscription basis, or for special events.
住所:〒169-0075 東京都新宿区高田馬場4丁目13-12 伊豆栄ビル3F
Location: 3rd floor of the Izuei Building, 4-13-12 Takadanobaba, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 〒169-0075
Phone number: 070-6469-724