Atago Shrine: Known for Its Formidable Stone Steps and Unique Cultural Experience
Atop the highest natural terrain mountain in Tokyo’s 23 wards, lies Atago Shrine – a hidden gem. Constructed in 1603 by shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, the shrine’s purpose was to safeguard Tokyo from calamities, thus standing as a representation of Japanese culture and values such as courage, perseverance, and ambition.
The highlight of Atago Shrine is the formidable “Stone Steps to Success,” comprising 86 steps with a slope angle of 37 degrees. According to legend, a retainer from Sanuki province’s Marugame domain rode up these stairs on his horse to procure plum branches for Tokugawa Iemitsu, earning commendation and admiration for his equestrian abilities and social advancement. Presently, the stairs are believed to bring career success and good fortune to those who climb them, particularly in the year of the horse based on the Chinese zodiac.
However, Atago Shrine is more than just a demanding ascent; it symbolizes the harmonious coexistence between nature and urbanization as it stands on a natural mountain encompassed by towering skyscrapers. Visitors can choose between the steeper “Man Hillside” or the less steep “Woman Hillside” to climb or take the elevator on the shrine’s east side through the Atago tunnel. Upon reaching the summit, visitors will be rewarded with a unique cultural experience ranging from traditional dances and music to horseback riding performances and fire prevention drills during the Stone Steps Festival held every September.