Yesterday was the first of the two Torinochi market days on the calendar for this year. I had a lot of work today and couldn’t go myself but here are some photos that I took last year at the Hanazono Shrine in Shinjuku. Let me quote myself about the meaning and background of the Torinoichi tradition:
“November the 10th is the first of the annual Torinohi, two or three days in November when traditional tornoichi markets are being held in many shrines and temples throughout Japan. The fact that both religions, shinto and buddhism, celebrate this tradition is interesting, the only difference between them is their reason for doing it. In all places the main object is to trade in the traditional kumade (熊手, or bear’s hand) decoration pieces, sometimes as small as 500 yen coin, and sometimes big enough to cover a small wall, there are all kinds of kumade and all the traders take great pride in displaying as much of their wares as possible. The basic form of the kumade comes from the humble garden rake, and the kumade is said to symbolize the raking in of health, happiness and health. It is traditional for local business to buy one each year to display in their shops. Whatever your belief is, the magic of the kumade actually works as it attracts customers. I personally always stop in front of a shop displaying a good kumade, giving the proprietor of the shop a chance to wheel me in and make a sale. The tradition is always buy a larger kumade than last year, so if you plan on following the tradition I would recommend starting out as small as possible, even though the sly tradesmen will always try to sell you their biggest!”
There is one more Torinoichi this year and I hope to catch it!
The grand torii of the Itsukushima Shrine is one of the many reasons that Hiroshima’s Miyajima Island is considered one of the top tourist attractions of Japan (in my opinion, even maybe the top attraction). At high tide the torii sits seemingly in the middle of the ocean but on low tide the water recedes and you can easily walk right up to it.
This torii was designed not to be anchored to the ground, it actually remains in place just by its own weight which makes it more or less earth quake proof. During high tide many tourist boats pass through ut and I as is customary people like to offer money to the gate. At low tide the money becomes visible in droves underneath the gate, in some places it piles up in droves. Still, to pick anything up or remove any of the money would be big no-no, so most people leave it alone where it is.
It was raining during most of my visit and together with this being a weekday afternoon meant that there were quite few other tourists during my visit. I even managed to meet one of the many wild deer out for a stroll later in the afternoon after the school kids and tourists had left.
The shrine on Isukushima Island, or Miyajima, is built into the flat tidal bay of the Setonaikai, a small sea surrounded by the main islands of Japan. In the old days the it was forbidden for commoners to set foot on the holy island so the shrine was built into the bay to make it possible for ordinary people to pay their respects. Although the building has been rebuilt many times, the original shrine dates back to the 6th century, making it one of the oldest in Japan.
During high tide the shrine sits in the middle of the water, a very beautiful effect. Unfortunately I visited during the rainy season so it was raining for most of the day and by the time I arrived low tide was in effect and most of the water had already run out. Still, it is good to see something different from what every photo in every tourist book tells you!
Shinto places great importance on purity, and since the island of Itsukushima is one the holiest places births and deaths and blood were not allowed on the island traditionally. These days of course, customs have changed though. Anyone who died on the island would be taken over to the mainland with their immediate family for funeral rites and there are still no cemeteries or graves on the island. Pregnant women were also expected to leave the island before giving birth and although not a rule anymore it is still considered prudent as there are no official maternity wards or hospitals on the island and the daytime only ferry access can be canceled in times of bad weather.
Walking around on the shrine which covers quite a lot of ground but is surprisingly small is a fantastic experience and I would easily rate this shrine as one of the premier places to visit for anyone touristing in Japan. This was also one of the places visited by Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio on their honey moon trip to Japan. As much as I have searched though, I can’t find any official dates or photos, but it must have happened on the afternoon of February 12th, 1954. Any fans who knows more out there?
More photos and posts to come!