Easily one of the most seen but least visited shrines in Japan is the tiny Omatsu Inari Shrine very close to the large Omotesando street crossing. Technically the address of the shrine is in Minamiaoyama, but most people would recognize it as a place in Omotesando more than anything else. It has quite a few illustrious brand name shops for close neighbors so there are tens of thousands of people passing it most days, despite this I have never seen anyone enter it.
The name, Omatsu, which means large pine, comes from the fact that until 1839 there was a huge pine tree right on this spot, it grew so large that people would come to venerate it. As it broke during a storm a tiny shrine was erected over the tee stump and it remains there today, even long after anyone who has ever seen the pine has passed away.
Since then the shrine has found a second shot of fame after having been featured in the award winning drama writer Mukoda Kuniko (向田邦子) who moved into the the fifth floor of the apartment building just next to it in 1970. I think she lived there until she died in a plane crash in Taiwan in 1981.
The shrine itself, being an inari-shrine, enshrines the diety Ukanomitama, who is often shown as a fox in Japanese mythology. I took these photos at night. For some reason I think this shrine is best visited at night, when the obvious modern surrounds are a little less obvious, giving us a chance to imagine this shrine as it must have looked in 1839.
Kanda Myojin, one of the most famous shrines in Tokyo is in the run up to celebrate its 400 year anniversary and staying with the times one of their ways are to sponsor a special series of (nearby) Akihabara inspired mangaesque gachapon figures. Themes and figures from the the shrine are sold at special locations in Tokyo (the main spot being just behind the main shrine in the direction of Akihabara station) in the form of gachapon, the plastic bubble figures you get at vending machines all over Japan (and indeed the world if I remember correctly). I found a few hung with the omikuji fortune telling slips that people tie up at shrines, especially in the beginning of the new year. A great souvenir if you find them! So far I have seen these being sold in Akihabara and Shibuya, but there are probably more spots to get them around Tokyo.
The last of the Torinoichi visit photographs for this year. It is a great tradition to watch, for both locals and tourists, with the clapping, the rhythmic chanting, the colorful and over the top kumade decorations on sale and of course the food stands selling everything from grilled fish to bottles of beer. If you missed it this year you can set your alarm clocks for the 2015 dates, starting one minute past midnight on November 5th, 17th and 29th. Enjoy!
Having hurried all the way to Asakusa and then down all the way back to Shibuya on the last day of this year’s Torinoichi market, it was time to go up to Shinjuku and visit the most festive of the Torinoichi markets, at Hanazono Shrine. I have blogged about this one many times before, as it is the most accessible of all the markets. This year’s second market day was even busies than last year when we had three, and since it was on a Saturday it was even busier still!