We took a serene day off between Ryogoku and Kuramae, looking for Inari shrines (foxes!), swords and mimosa flowers.
Mimosa flowers are among my favorites, and, after a bit of search, I found few places where they bloom beautifully. I’m also always on the lookout for Inari shrines, so I usually check Google Maps for any in the area I’m going to. Interestingly, there are too many Inari shrines for Google Maps to handle: sometimes we just wander around and bump into one that’s not on the map. It’s always a nice surprise, anyway.
We started at Ryogoku station and headed to Nomi no Suzune shrine. Ryogoku is best known for being the place for sumo in Tokyo, so it’s no wonder shrines here are correlated to it somehow. Nomi no Suzune is a legendary figure, believed to be a decendant of Amaterasu, the Sun gooddes, and regarded as the father of sumo. There’s a stone with names of sumo wrestlers carved on it near the shrine. On the precint, there’s a small Inari shrine with four fox statues. It seems the shrines are mainly used for events only.
Going back to Ryogoku station and taking the paved walking route in front of the main road, we arrived at the Sumo National Arena for our second ‘fox-y’ stop of the day. On the National Arena grounds there are two Inari shrines, Toyokuni shrine (on the left) and Shusei shrine (on the right). The two shrines are correlated to Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and you should pray here to attract luck and success in your life. Closer to the season, you might see sumo wrestlers pray here for fortune and success before a match. Both Toyokuni shrine and Shusei shrine were moved when the location of the Arena was moved in 1963.
Turning right and crossing the street, we reached the Former Yasuda Garden, a Japanese landscape garden with a pond and some nice views of Tokyo Skytree. Next to the garden stands the Japanese Swords Museum (in title image).
Ryogoku is also home of traditional arts and crafts workshops, including Japanese swords. You can see a few on the road to the Sumo Arena as well. Part of the garden was closed, but we were able to make it to Komadome Inari shrine. Story goes that, after a typhoon, Sumida river broke the banks; since damage on this side of the river looked particularly troubling, Tokugawa Iemitsu sent one of his men to assess the situation. The shrine stands as an indication of where he got off his beloved horse so that both could have some rest. The people who lived nearby built this Inari shrine as a symbol of the success of this survey.
Just across the street from the Former Yasuda Garden is Yokoamicho Park. Originally intended as a place to honor the victims of the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, after World War II it also became the place to remember the victims of the 1944 and 1945 raids over Tokyo.
Since our goal was Kuramae Jinja, we started to make our way to it by crossing Kuramae Bridge few minutes from the park. And that’s when we stumbled upon Kajitori Inari shrine, mostly because I wanted to be in the shade. Kuramae (蔵前) literally means “in front of the warehouse”, as it was the location for the government rice warehouse during the Edo Period (1603–1868). The stones to build the warehouse were transported by ships from Kumamoto, so the shogunate build Kajitori Inari Shrine to pray for their safe journey.
Walking through the shops and restaurant of Kuramae, we finally arrived to Kuramae shrine. The shrine was established in 1694 and is known as the place were kanjin sumo was born. Kanjin sumo is a type of sumo tournament held in order to raise donations for shrines or temples. Kuramae shrine is popular in spring as its mimosa tree and kawazu zakura tree bloom very close in time to each other, and the yellow and pink flowers create a beautiful contrast. It can get very crowded, so it’s best to go early in the morning or just be really patient. The closest metro is Kuramae station, exit A6, on the Oedo line.