Atago Hill and the NHK Broadcast Museum
There was a time when one could see the entirety of Tokyo, or Edo as it was then known, from atop Atago Hill. Today the view is obscured by a wall of skyscrapers, but climbing the steep hill is still worth the effort, thanks to the presence of the Atago Shrine and the adjacent NHK Broadcast Museum.
I’m not a religious person at all, and not affiliated with any sort of church. However, if there were some sort of Global Anti-Atheism Law which forced me to choose a religion or die, Shintō would be a contender. I decided this while strolling through the gardens of the Atago Shrine. All I’d have to do is occasionally visit a beautiful park like this, wash my hands, and clap a couple times? I might already be a convert!
Atago Shrine is nice enough to make anyone a believer. A tiny oasis of peace in the middle of the city, it’s the kind of place whose existence hardly seems possible. At the bottom of the stairs, there’s Tokyo, with its attendant traffic, noise, and stress. And at the top, another world. There are woods, fountains, guardian statues and, in the koi pond, hilariously frantic carp crawling over each other in pursuit of food.
Thanks to the view it once commanded, Atago Hill has seen its share of history. It was here that the Tokugawa Shogunate peacefully surrendered to the Meiji Empire. The looming war was likely unwinnable, and looking out over his threatened city prompted the shogun to raise the white flag. “Honor in the face of defeat” would prove a popular mantra at Atago. After Japan’s capitulation in World War II, ten military commanders chose the hill as the site for a ritual suicide.
Having finished up at the shrine, we turned our attention to a more modern religion: television. NHK, the Japanese Broadcasting Corporation, runs a free museum in the building where the country’s first television broadcasts went out. Spread across four floors and focusing on the early days of the technology, it was more entertaining than we expected it to be, with interactive displays and frequent appearances by Domo, NHK’s lovable mascot.