Tokyobling's Blog

Otahime Inari Shrine – Chiyoda Ward

Posted in Places by tokyobling on June 29, 2015

On a lovely back street well shaded with trees in the middle of Chiyoda ward is the tiny Otahime Inari Shrine (太田姫稲荷神社). Founded in Edo (Old Tokyo) in 1457, there are various interpretation to its colorful name (Princess Ota Shrine). According to one legend, the name comes from the noble Ota Doukan (太田道灌) whose daughter very nearly died in a smallpox epidemic sometime in the 15th century. Ota Doukan prayed at the Imoaraiinari shrine for her and everyone else dying in smallpox and miraculously saved her life. To honor the Gods Ota Doukan founded this shrine within the grounds of the old (the first) Edo Castle. After Edo was made the capital the shrine was moved to a new location within the New Edo Castle, in 1606, on a spot right in front of the east exit of Ochanomizu JR station today (you can still find the old tree that marks the center of the shrine). In 1872, the shrine was renamed Sonsha (I think) by order of the government but the shrine was completely destroyed in the fires following the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, and rebuilt in 1931, only to be moved once again to its present spot to make room for the new railway line. This time it got its old name back though!

These days it celebrates its main festival in mid May, and is a popular shrine with local businesses and corporations, as most of its parish is now office buildings and shops.

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Taro Inari Shrine – Iriya

Posted in Japanese Traditions, Places by tokyobling on November 18, 2014

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!

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Anamori Inari Shrine – Haneda

Posted in Places by tokyobling on August 20, 2013

One of the three shrines in Tokyo’s Haneda district is the Anamori Inari Shrine (穴守稲荷神社), near the station of the same name on the Keikyu Airport Line. Together they make up the Haneda Shrine itself. Being an inari shrine means that it is a shrine devoted to the Inari God, always shown in the form of a fox, responsible for protecting farming, fertility and rice. Usually the foxes comes in pairs, one male and one female. There are quite a few legends attached to the shrine and it is popular with pregnant women and parents. Of over 80 000 shrines in Japan about 32 000 are Inari Shrines. Although not the most powerful, Inari is certainly the most popular with ordinary people! In the old days some of these shrines kept live fox but this is very unusual these days, only once have I seen a real fox underneath a torii gate, in 2009 up in Miyagi prefecture!

The best fox though, is Konchan, the fox just outside the Anamori Inari Jinja Station, dressed up in the festival garb of the Haneda festival and sponsored by the airlines of Japan. Konchan wears different clothes on different days and the people of the city takes turn dressing her up in seasonal clothes. When I visited there was a sign that they were looking for volunteers to make a new set clothes for her. I wonder if I should step up?

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Manzoku Inari Jinja – Summer Shrine in Kyoto

Posted in Places by tokyobling on July 21, 2013

Summer is the time to tour the country and here is a very summerly shrine that I visited in Kyoto with the fantastic name of Manzoku Inari Jinja. I didn’t have time to stick around to learn anything about the shrine which still annoys me, but maybe someone reading this blogs knows more? There were plenty of statues around in this well kept shrine. There’s not many shrines actually, in the very buddhist city of Kyoto, so I usually try to drop in and have a look every time I pass one on my Kyoto city walks.

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