Yoshiwara Jinja, dedicated to Benten, Goddess of Beauty and Art
Just a short way from happy-go-lucky Otori Jinja is Yoshiwara Jinja, a Shinto shrine dedicated to Benten, the Goddess of Beauty, Music, Literature and Art. Benten is especially revered by women, and it is only appropriate her shrine stands right in the middle of the old Yoshiwara red-light entertainment district.
For centuries, this area bustled with brothels, streetwalkers, tea houses and gambling places. Though the traditional wooden architecture is long gone, the area is still alive with private “clubs” staffed by over-dressed (and over-oiled) doormen on the back streets.
Benten started out as a Hindu goddess who has been transformed into a Shinto deity with a sideline in Buddhism. Japanese are flexible that way. Since goings-on in Yoshiwara were not of the most honest nature, perhaps worshippers preferred the fact that the Shinto religion has almost no fiery concept of hell and damnation.
The shrine is simple and colorful. Shrines to Benten always include a water feature, preferably a well or natural spring, since another way to describe her is the 'goddess of all that flows'. Benten's well is actually in a separate shrine very nearby.
Access: With Otori Jinja's torii gate at your back, go left and walk to the next traffic light. Turn left and left again. Benten's well is on the right, a few yards down the street. The colorful shrine is a little further on your left. No stairs.