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!
During the Edo period after the end of the Civil Wars one of the ways that peace was kept was to have the ruling provincial lords to live close together in the capital where the Shogun could keep an eye on them. The Daimyo (provincial level lords) live in grand walled estates called Yashiki, the grandest of which was like a miniature city within the city while the smallest was merely a large house with a garden, a wall and sometimes a ceremonial moat to separate it from the city. Many of the Yashiki also had dedicated shrines where the people who lived there could pray. After the Edo period ended the old Yashiki system was abolished and most of the grand Tokyo estates were broken up into smaller pieces or turned into parks or gardens. The shrines sometimes remained though, and to this day it is possible to find several of these scattered around central Tokyo to show where a grand estate house once stood. I have heard there are 16 of them but I am not sure.
I found one of these Edo Yashiki shrines in Tokyo’s Asakusa district, the Taro Inari Jinja (Shrine). This used to be the estate shrine of the Tachibana House of the Yanagawa clan, who ruled souther Fukuoka province on the Island of Kyushu. The estate and the shrine was established here around 1660. This is the only remains of the old estate, even though some of the lots are still in the hands of the original noble family members who seem to be in the hotel business (not sure on this one).
The thing that made me notice this shrine however was the fact that the Torii, the red gate in front of all shrines and holy places, has actually been incorporated into the neighboring building when it was erected, a torii shaped hole has been made in the building wall itself! No matter how crowded Tokyo gets, you can’t really ask the Gods to move!