Tokyobling's Blog

The Mount Fuji at Shinagawa Shrine – Fujizuka

Posted in Japanese Traditions, Places by tokyobling on June 11, 2015

If you have visited a few shrines in Tokyo you are likely to have come across the concept of the Fujizuka (富士塚), which literally translates to “Mount Fuji Mound”. These mounts that are made to resemble the famous Mount Fuji are anything from a couple of meters to the biggest one at 15 meters, here in Shinagawa Shrine. The common theme is that they all contain more or less original lava stones from the real mount fuji, usually these genuine rocks are in very visible locations, more or less covering the mound. The first Fukizuka was constructed in 1780 at Takada in modern day Nishi Waseda (later relocated), and this Fujizuka in Shinagawa Shrine was built very late, which perhaps explains its size. In the old days all of these were built in locations where you could actually see the real Mount Fuji from the top, but due to the construction of tall buildings this has been lost. I think it is possible to see the mountain from this very tall Fujizuka though, but despite dozens of visits I have never managed even a glimpse.

If you visit the Shinagawa Shrine and the small and quite terrifying footpath to the top is open I recommend a climb, the views are quite good, and you can almost see down to the old Tokaido road, the main highway of old Japan. Another thing you will see a lot of are trains, as they pass right on top of the little Shimbamba Station, and if you have a keen eye you might spot the dozens of jets coming in for landing or taking off from Haneda Airport to the south west of the shrine!

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Tilting Omikoshi – Haneda Festival

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on August 1, 2013

Here’s some more photos of the fantastic omikoshi parade of the large Haneda Shrine Festival in Tokyo’s Ota Ward, Haneda district. The omikoshi are rocked or tilted, with one side bending low and throwing the other side up in the air! It looks fantastically fun and dangerous at the same time. Each omikoshi is represented by a different part of the town, and each part takes turns to lead the parade, every year another neighborhood takes over the leadership. Their music team leads the parade while the other neighborhood teams wait at along the route providing music and entertainment to the parade as it passes. The Haneda festival is not to be missed if you are into unique omikoshi!

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Rocking The Gods – Haneda Festival

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on July 30, 2013

Here’s some more photos of the uniquely difficult omikoshi procession of the annual Haneda Shrine Festival in Tokyo’s Ota Ward. During festivals, the omikoshi, which are really portable shrines are believed to house the actual Gods of the shrine. These omikoshi are carried in procession around the town that is covered by the protection of the shrine. Different omikoshi have different looks and vary from area to area in very small but important details. Another way they vary is in the manner they are carried. For example the festival in Ikebukuro is famous for almost tipping over the omikoshi in a manner that looks absolutely dangerous. The omikoshi in this festivel however are wildly tilted at regular intervals, in which the people on one side the shrine are thrown into the air while the other side is almost kneeling, rocking or tilting in a see-saw manner. It looks like great fun! Some of the omikoshi are also accompanied by singers, similar to the ones in the Atami festival. I really enjoyed this superbly local little festival in a part of Tokyo that really looks and feel different. I met a lot of interesting and friendly locals as well, one of the coolest being Mr. Watanabe, 71 years old and still rocking the block fashion-wise and with the best hair cut of the festival and a big cup of ice to keep cold!

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Haneda Shrine Festival

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on July 29, 2013

One of the oddest places around Tokyo’s national airport, Haneda, is the red torii gate in the middle of nowhere, between the airport and Haneda town. Originally it belonged to a large shrine, the Anamoriinarijinja, originally founded in 1804 but moved to the location of the present airport in 1913. As the occupying armies moved into Tokyo just a few months after the end of World War 2, it was decided that they needed a bigger airport and in order to make room for the new runways the shrine was removed, all but the single red torii gate. It is reported that when workers tried to pull it down a rope snapped and killed one of them. All further attempts to move the gate failed and it was reported that on every day there was an attempt to move it there would be trouble, accidents or even plane crashes. So the ground around the gate was made into a car park. In 1954, after long ceremonies and under a civilian leadership the gate was finally moved but not to the new place of the shrine but just slightly to the south of the airport, where it now occupies a piece of nowhere in between the bay and a busy road. By accident the Google Maps photo of the gate is rather fantastic.

The shrine, and the gate were acknowledged by the airport authorities and the different airline companies to be their guardian shrine and every year on the last weekend of July there is a large festival being held where all the shrines belonging to the Haneda Shrine comes together and sends their omikoshi to the lone gate. Airport officials, airlines, pilots, mechanics and flight attendants also show up to pay their respect and hand out tea and fans to the locals and tourists who come out to watch it.

The history of the shrine and the gate, and the back up from all the locals in this little part of Tokyo that is really quite cut of from the rest of the city by the airport on one side and the bay on the other, makes it a really fun and special festival to attend. They even have a unique way of carrying their omikoshi that both looks and sounds dangerous (I’ll blog about that later this week). I took these photos as the different neighborhood teams were bringing up their omikoshi to the torii gate, and as the parade just started over the bridge decorated with the flags of local fishing boat crews. More photos of this festival to come!

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