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Sometimes, getting lost is the best part of a journey.

Exploring new routes in western Tokyo yesterday, we accidentally stopped at the Sugawara Shrine in Machida to check our bicycle route. There are countless Tenjin shrines across Japan dedicated to Sugawara no Michizane (菅原道真, 845-903), a leading court scholar, poet, and political figure of the Heian Period (794-1185); he had challenged the powerful Fujiwara family and was sent into exile where he died in disgrace. Later deified as Tenjin (天神, the Shinto kami of scholarship), Michizane came to be venerated as the patron saint of learning. To this day, students buy amulets at the shrines dedicated to Michizane before taking school examinations.

Sugawara Shrine Machida

Sugawara Shrine (菅原神社 Sugawara-jinja) is located in Honmachida (本町田), Machida, Tōkyō. It is one of three Tenjin shrines in Machida (the others being Machida Tenman-gū 町田天満宮 and Minami-Otani Tenjinja 南大谷天神社). It is one of the most visited shrines in the city because of the large number of buses passing through the area and its proximity to Machida Station.

Sugawara Shrine Machida

The shrine was constructed on the site of an old battlefield, Ide no Sawa (井出の沢), a Historic Site of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (東京都旧跡 Tōkyōto kyūseki). When the Kamakura shogunate was established in 1199 and the Kamakura Highway (鎌倉街道 Kamakura kaidō) constructed, this area became one of the most important places along the highway leading to Kamakura from northern Kantō. Rolling hills characterise the area between Fuchū and the shrine, but on to Kamakura, troops could push ahead quickly. Based on the local topography, historians assume that a castle-like structure might have existed there earlier.

Sugawara Shrine Machida

In 1335, Ashikaga Tadayoshi (足利直義, 1306-1352), the younger brother of Ashikaga Takauji, intercepted Hōjō Tokiyuki (北条時行, d. 1353), who led an army south from Shinano Province (modern-day Nagano Prefecture) in an attempt to revive the Kamakura shogunate, in this area and was defeated in a fierce battle. Tokiyuki took Kamakura but had to escape from Takauji's forces. Ide no Sawa was famous as a resting place where clean water gushed out, as is written in the Kamakura-era poem, Zenkōji Shugyō (善光寺修行). The small stream between the spring and Onda River (恩田川) was called Ide no Sawa.

Sugawara Shrine Machida

In the Muromachi period, the local Ōsawa clan dedicated a statue of Tenjin to the shrine. That statue had been obtained in the Eikyō era (永享, 1429-1441) from Kitano Tenman-gū in Kyōto. In 1630, the statue was re-enshrined by Ōsawa Genhan (大沢玄藩), and the Sugawara Shrine was built. A new hall of worship was constructed in 2012, and on 1 April 2017, a new public assembly hall was completed. Every 25 August, the Sugawara Shrine Grand Festival takes place.

sSugawara Shrine Machida

Sugawara Shrine Machida

Sugawara Shrine Machida

Sugawara Shrine Machida

Sugawara Shrine Machida

Sugawara Shrine Machida


Address: 802 Honmachida, Machida, Tōkyō 194-0032

Access: By bus from Machida Station on the Yokohama Line and Odakyū Odawara Line. Take the bus (for Fujinodai Danchi) leaving from Machida Terminal No.3 or Machida Bus Center No.11, and get off at Sugawara Shrine. Or take the bus leaving from Machida Station bus stop 21 or 22 (at the POP building) and get off at Sugawara-jinja-mae bus stop. By train from Tsurukawa Station on the Odakyū Odawara Line. Take the [町50] or [町54] bus bound for Machida Bus Center (町田バスセンター) via Kanai from Platform 0 at Tsurukawa Station, and get off at Sugawara-jinja-mae. It is a 30-minute walk from Machida Station along the Tsurukawa Kaidō.

Disclaimer: All photos were taken with the camera of my trusted but ageing iPhone 6.
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