A Good Luck Walk in Meguro, Tokyo
With so many temples in Japan, pilgrimages across temples are very common. Only in Tokyo there are dozens of them. The most famous are those about the seven gods of good luck, or Shichifukujin Meguri (literally, the tour of the seven lucky god temples), found, for example, around Nihombashi, Sumida, Yanaka, and Meguro.
The aim of the walk is to visit each temple in the circuit, usually one per lucky god, and pay respect to the deity. Worshippers can collect stamps at each visit, or buy tiny wooden dolls depicting the god, depending on the pilgrimage. Inside each doll there's a paper with a fortune telling, and that depends on which doll you pick. In the end, the small statues make a pretty collection to exhibit at home...think about that!
It is tradition that people engage in one of those pilgrimages around new year, to bring new good fortune into their households, and indeed many of the temple's pilgrimages can be pursued around that time only. So, it gets busy. But one of those, Meguro's Yamate pilgrimage, allows year-round visits. It stretches between the stations of Shirokane-Takanawa (Namboku line), close to Shinagawa, and Fudomae (Namboku line), close to Meguro, it's relatively short and definitely easy to do on a fine day. Either it's stamps or dolls what you're after, just keep in mind that the offices open late and close early, so make sure to go during the central hours of the day, but bring enough water or drinks to keep your fluids levels high and remember to wear a hat, sunscreen and all else may be needed in case the temperatures are high.
I decided to walk from Shirokane-Takanawa, instead of starting from Meguro, because the walk would be all downhill, hence more enjoyable, but the starting point really doesn't matter as far as all temples are visited.
So, first temple from Shirokane-Takanawa is Kakurinji (覚林寺). Walk towards the Takanawa fire department and at the big intersection turn into Meguro dori. The temple is right on the left after the intersection. This is dedicated to Bishamonten, god of war and warriors.
After 8-10 minutes walk along Meguro, just before Shirokanedai station, is the second temple, Zuishoji (瑞聖寺) which is dedicated to Hotei the god of happiness. And indeed the tiny doll shows a very happy face.
Still walking along Meguro Dori for another 10 minutes gets you to Myoenji (妙円寺). The road to the shrine is on the left, down a small slope and is a bit hidden, so don't give up too soon if you can't find it right away. There are two gods that are worshipped in this temple: Jurojin, god of long life, and Fukurokuju, god of, well, long life and good fortune. They are both depicted as old guys with long beards.
Next, is another 8-10 minutes walk along Meguro dori. Making sure to keep on the left, walk until past Meguro station, and then at the JR Tokyu Meguro Building turn left and take the steep downhill road. There is Daienji (大円寺), a very nice temple featuring a statue of buddha covered with gold leaves. It is believed that if a person puts a gold leave on the statue, on the part of the body that corresponds to the person's aching body part, then it will be healed (maybe the feet of the pilgrims?). Anyway, the god worshipped here is Daikoku, god of wealth and farming. Also, in case the pilgrimage has become too boring or tiring, the rest of the dolls can be bought at this temple, too...but, no, no, let's continue, we only have two temples left!
So, from Daienji, the walk continues for another downhill, then crosses the river and keeps going until reaching and crossing Yamate-dori, all the way to almost the end of the road and it takes another 10-15 minutes. In there is Banryuji (蟠龍寺), temple dedicated to Benten the goddess of arts and music.
Return back to Yamate dori and turn right. Soon after there's a road to the right that zig-zags all the way to the last temple, Ryusenji (瀧泉寺), the biggest of all. It covers a large area, and is also surrounded by other temples, so make sure you know it is the one you want. God of commerce and fishermen Ebisu is worshipped here.
Okay, well, done! The pilgrimage is done now, and you can rest by the pond that's found near the last temple and enjoy the new bundle of fortune from the walk!