In the heart of Tokyo’s bustling streets lies a sanctuary steeped in history and tradition, Fukutoku Shrine. As the city pulses with modernity, Fukutoku Shrine stands as a silent witness to centuries of change, its sacred grounds a testament to the enduring spirit of Japan’s cultural heritage.

From its mysterious origins in the ancient Jogan era to its present-day prominence, Fukutoku Shrine’s journey is a tapestry woven with threads of resilience, community, and faith. As we trace the footsteps of time through Fukutoku’s hallowed halls, we unveil the layers of its rich history—a narrative of endurance, adaptation, and unwavering devotion. Join me on a journey through the ages as we explore the captivating story of Fukutoku Shrine, where echoes of the past resonate with the promise of a timeless legacy.

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The main altar at Fukutoku Shrine.

From Rural Serenity to Urban Pulse

Unveiling the mysterious origins of the shrine, legend whispers of its inception during the ancient Jogan era, under the reign of Emperor Seiwa (859-876). Nestled amidst the vibrant tapestry of Nihonbashi, the area was once part of Fukutoku Village, Toshima District, Musashi Province, a place where farming and fishing families thrived in harmony with nature.

Originally known simply as Inari Shrine, its identity evolved over time, intertwining with the essence of Fukutoku Village to become the beloved “Fukutoku Inari”. The locals, deeply attached to the sanctity of the shrine, affectionately christened the surrounding woodland as the Inari Forest, and the ancient mile marker at its edge as the revered Inari Milestone.

In the wake of the Edo Shogunate’s establishment, Fukutoku’s humble rural expanse underwent a remarkable transformation. Once surrounded by the tranquil rhythms of agrarian life, its grounds evolved into a bustling downtown hub, adorned with merchant houses. The streets bore witness to this metamorphosis, as the names Ise-cho and Setomono-cho replaced the echoes of the past, ushering in an era known as Ukiyo or the Floating World. Gradually, the area came to be affectionately termed Ukiyoshoji.

However, history’s tempestuous winds wrought change upon the tranquil landscape. On a fateful day in the 3rd year of the Meireki era (1657), a mighty earthquake razed the area to the ground, leaving behind fragments of its storied past. Yet, amidst the rubble, the resilient spirit of the people endured, preserving the remnants of the shattered stone monument for generations to come.

Over two centuries, Fukutoku Shrine stood as a beacon of reverence amidst the urban sprawl. Yet, the passage of time brought challenges, as fires ravaged its precincts and neglect encroached upon its sacred grounds. By the dawn of the Meiji Restoration, its once expansive territory had dwindled significantly. Despite adversity, the shrine remained a cherished cornerstone of the community’s identity. Even in the face of peril during the Tenpo Reforms, the townsfolk rallied together, united in their determination to revive the sanctity of Fukutoku Shrine.

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One of the guardian foxes at Fukutoku Shrine, with ema in the background. There’s also a poster showing omamori sold at the shrine.

Preserving History and Faith

In a pivotal moment on August 9, 1847, the government bestowed official recognition upon the cherished history and unwavering faith enshrined within Fukutoku’s sacred precincts. This esteemed acknowledgment marked the transition from a humble village shrine to the revered Fukutoku Shrine, a testament to its enduring significance.

With this newfound recognition, Fukutoku Shrine emerged as a unifying force, drawing parishioners from Setomono-cho and devotees from surrounding areas such as Muromachi, Honmachi, Ise-cho, and Anjin-cho. Bound by a shared reverence, these diverse communities came together to uphold traditions, ensuring the continuation of festivals and diligent maintenance of the shrine’s sacred grounds. Through their collective efforts, Fukutoku’s legacy of devotion thrived, transcending boundaries and enriching the lives of all who sought solace within its embrace.

Endurance Through Transition

Amidst the seismic shifts of history, Fukutoku Shrine’s journey has been one of resilience and adaptability. Following the upheaval of the Great Kanto Earthquake, the shrine found itself relocated to 2-4 Muromachi, Nihonbashi, weathering the trials of war damage with steadfast resolve.

As the tides of change swept across the Nihonbashi area, transforming its streetscape from merchant houses to towering edifices, Fukutoku Shrine faced yet another wave of transition. Forced to relocate to the rooftop of a building, the shrine continued to uphold its sacred traditions amidst the urban sprawl.

Despite the challenges posed by redevelopment, Fukutoku Shrine remained a steadfast beacon of spiritual solace for generations of worshippers. In 2014, the shrine’s journey culminated in the completion of its new sanctuary at the current location.

Since the days of Edo, Fukutoku Shrine has been revered by countless souls traversing the bustling streets of Nihonbashi, earning the esteemed moniker of Nihonbashi Inari Shrine. Through centuries of change, its sacred flame continues to burn bright, illuminating the hearts of all who seek its divine embrace.

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The other fox guardian at Fukutoku Shrine. Traditionally, one fox holds the keys to the rice storage, while the other holds the foxfire.

Embracing the Spirit of Warlords

Within the hallowed precincts of Fukutoku Shrine, echoes of valor and honor resound through the ages. Legend whispers tales of reverence bestowed upon mighty warriors by the Morimura clan, stewards of the shrine during the Edo period. Among them, luminaries such as Minamoto no Yoshiie and Ota Dokan stand tall, their names etched in the annals of history.

In the tranquil days of August 1590, Tokugawa Ieyasu graced Fukutoku Shrine with his presence, marking the beginning of a sacred bond that transcended time. Across the years, he returned to pay homage to the spirits that dwelled within, leaving behind a legacy of respect and admiration.

In the wake of the Battle of Sekigahara, Honda Tadakatsu, adorned with accolades bestowed by Prince Ieyasu, offered a humble token of gratitude to Fukutoku Shrine. Within the folds of a paper case, imbued with the valor of generations past, lay the essence of triumph and devotion.

In the year 1614, the second shogun, Hidetada, graced its threshold on the auspicious occasion of New Year’s Day. Gazing upon the burgeoning spring buds adorning the traditional bark torii gate, he bestowed upon Fukutoku Shrine the honored title of “truly auspicious deity”, a testament to its divine grace. Henceforth, the shrine bore the illustrious name Mebuki Inari, symbolizing the blossoming of blessings and prosperity.

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In summer, Fukutoku Shrine hosts an event with cute windchimes.

Attracting Fortune and Luck

During the Edo period, Tokyo’s spiritual landscape was interwoven with traditions of luck and chance. Amongst the myriad shrines gracing the city, Fukutoku Shrine stood as a beacon of fortune, its sacred precincts bestowed with the rare privilege of hosting tomikuji lotteries—a practice sanctioned by the Shogunate government.

In a city where faith and fortune entwined, pilgrims seeking favor in the fickle hands of fate found solace in Fukutoku’s halls. Here, amidst the prayers and the chink of coins, the allure of omamori charms beckoned, promising a glimpse into fortune’s favors. For those souls who dared to tempt fate, Fukutoku Shrine became synonymous with the pursuit of luck and prosperity. As tales of winnings and whispered blessings spread like wildfire through the streets, the shrine’s reputation soared, drawing seekers from far and wide.

Thus, born from the convergence of faith and fortune, the tomikuji mamori (lottery charms) emerged, a tangible testament to Fukutoku’s sacred bond with luck. Through the ages, the shrine’s legacy endures, a testament to the enduring spirit of hope and the timeless pursuit of fortune’s favor.