As travelers navigate the vibrant streets of Tokyo and Yokohama, they may stumble upon a hidden gem, Anamori Inari Shrine, a place where tradition and modernity converge in a harmonious dance. With its origins tracing back to a bygone era, the shrine’s story is woven into the fabric of Japan’s cultural tapestry, offering a glimpse into a world where folklore meets the contemporary. Here, amidst the tranquility of its sacred grounds, visitors are beckoned to embark on a journey of discovery, where each step unveils a new chapter in the shrine’s timeless narrative.

A Beloved Sanctuary Through the Ages

Nestled in the heart of Japanese tradition and resilience, Anamori Inari Shrine holds a storied past that dates back to the Bunka-Bunsei period (1804-1830). During this era, the Suzuki-shinden area, now home to Haneda Airport, faced frequent coastal damage from heavy waves. The villagers, seeking to protect their lands, decided to build a shrine on the levee after a particularly devastating breach allowed seawater to flood their fields. They enshrined Inari, marking the birth of Anamori Inari Shrine.

The shrine has since been a symbol of agricultural prosperity, safeguarding the grain fields from the wrath of wind and waves. The name “Anamori” translates to the “Great Deity of Inari who protects the fields from the damage caused by a large hole created by wind and waves”.

In November 1886, the shrine’s name, Anamori Inari Shrine, was officially recognized by the government, ushering in a period of flourishing activity. The establishment of the Anamori Line by the Keihin Electric Railway transformed the shrine into a bustling hub of both sacred and secular endeavors. The area became renowned for its mineral springs, seaside resorts, horse racing tracks, and vibrant community life. Visitors praised its serene atmosphere, drawing worshippers not only from across Japan but also from around the globe.

According to legend, 46,797 torii gates, forming a tunnel-like pathway, were dedicated in front of the shrine. It was said that walking through this tunnel would keep one dry even in the rain, adding a mystical allure to the site.

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Haneda Airport is only few minutes away from Anamori Inari Shrine, so that the shrine itself is a good place for planespotting.

A Sacred Association with Haneda Airport

Tokyo International Airport, better known as Haneda Airport, serves as the bustling gateway to Japan’s vibrant capital. However, few travelers realize that this modern aviation hub sits on land rich with historical and spiritual significance. Once known as Haneda Anamori-cho, this area was the site of the revered Anamori Inari Shrine, a major destination for shrine visits situated strategically between Tokyo and Yokohama.

In 1917, two visionary young men, Tamai Seitaro and Aiba Tamotsu, along with Kurakichi Ishizeki, the head of the Kanamekan mineral spring inn, recognized the potential of aviation. They founded the Nippon Flying School and Nippon Aircraft Works in Haneda Anamori-cho. According to legend, a trainee from the flying school offered abura-age (fried tofu) to the shrine before his first solo flight. The flight was successful, leading to the shrine’s early association with aviation safety.

This marked the beginning of Haneda’s aviation history and the enduring bond between Anamori Inari Shrine and the flying industry. By 1931, the Japanese government established Tokyo Airfield north of the shrine, solidifying the area’s role in aviation. The airfield later became Haneda Airport.

Following World War II, the Allied Forces confiscated Tokyo Airfield, burying the shrine’s pavilions, stone lanterns, and numerous fox statues under the runway. The Allied Forces then ordered the shrine to be relocated within 48 hours due to the expansion of Haneda Airport. In 1947, amid the lingering scars of war, local admirers generously donated about 2,300 square meters for the shrine’s new location. By February 1948, Anamori Inari Shrine had found its home. Since then, the shrine has been lovingly restored with the help of dedicated worshippers. The pavilions, stage, and shrine office have all been reconstructed.

On May 17, 1955, the old terminal building of Tokyo International Airport was constructed on the former site of Anamori Inari Shrine. An Anamori Inari Airport Branch Shrine was enshrined atop the terminal to ensure safe flights. This shrine, along with the Haneda Aviation Shrine founded in 1963, has since safeguarded the airport’s safety and prosperity.

With the offshore development of the airport, the Haneda Aviation Shrine moved to Terminal 1, and the Anamori Inari Airport Branch Shrine was integrated with Anamori Inari Shrine. These shrines continue to be a beacon of faith and protection for the aviation community.

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The impressive torii tunnel at Anamori Inari Shrine will lead you up to the little mountain.

Flying to the Future

Today, Anamori Inari Jinja remains a guardian deity of levees, protecting Haneda from disaster. The shrine attracts a diverse array of visitors, from government dignitaries and airline industry professionals to individual travelers seeking blessings for safe flights. Even now, airplanes heading southwest can be seen from the shrine’s precincts, a testament to its enduring relevance.

Surrounded by airport-related companies, training facilities, and dormitories, the shrine retains its aura of awe and familiarity. It has gained reverence from both domestic and international airline companies. On holy days, colorful banners adorn the precincts, celebrating the divine virtues of Anamori Inari, reflecting a perfect blend of sacred tradition and modern aviation.

In the spring of 2020, the inner shrine and Inari-yama mountain were rebuilt, helping the shrine gradually regain its historic splendor. Today, Anamori Inari Jinja stands as a testament to the enduring spirit and faith of its community, welcoming visitors to experience its rich cultural heritage and serene beauty.

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As it happens for Inari shrines protected by foxes, you’ll see quite a few statues of different sizes and colors on the shrine grounds.

A Shrine with a Whimsical Twist

Anamori Inari Shrine is adorned with an array of sacred fox statues: while foxes in Japanese folklore are famed for their love of mischief, they are also revered for their magical abilities and wisdom. Even if you’re not seeking a blessing, you’ll be delighted by the hundreds of unique fox statues scattered throughout the shrine.

The grounds of Anamori Inari Shrine are dotted with miniature shrines, known as oyashiro, each accessible through a corridor of striking torii gates. These small shrines, each dedicated to a different blessing, offer a wide range of fortunes. Whether you’re seeking economic luck, success in exams, or any other specific blessing, there’s an oyashiro here to cater to your needs.

A Cute Mascot

Upon exiting Anamori Inari station, you’ll be greeted by the adorable fox mascot Kon-chan. This charming stone statue watches over locals commuting to work or school and tourists exploring the area, offering a sense of warmth and welcome. Throughout the seasons and during special occasions, Kon-chan is dressed in stylish outfits handmade by the local community, adding a touch of whimsy to your visit.

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The two guardian foxes at the main torii gate have foxfire and a curious cub to welcome you.

The Enchanting Tale of Oku-no-miya and the Magical Sand

Once upon a time, an old man lived on Kaname Island in Haneda. This reclaimed island was often battered by tidal waves, breaching its levees. To protect his home, the old man built a shrine atop the levees and invited the deity of Inari. From that moment on, the island was spared from the destructive forces of wind and waves, and the shrine came to be known as Anamori Inari.

One day, after returning from a fishing trip, the old man found only wet sand in his fish basket instead of fish. This strange occurrence repeated itself over the next few days. Puzzled, he shared his experience with the villagers, who believed a fox was responsible. They sought to capture the fox at Anamori Inari, but the old man, with a kind heart, forgave the creature and let it go.

From that day forward, his fishing trips were bountiful. His fish basket brimmed with fish and a little wet sand. Curious, he sprinkled the sand in his garden, and soon after, he was visited by numerous guests, bringing him great fortune. Inspired by his tale, people from all around came to Anamori Inari Shrine to seek the blessings of the sacred sand. This tradition has endured to the present day.

How to Use the Sacred Sand

It is said that you need to sprinkle sand in different places of your home to attract different blessings. If you wish to receive the blessings and protection of commerce, industry, agriculture, fishery, and family safety, sprinkle the sacred sand at your entrance. For healing from illness, sprinkle it under your bed, while to ward off calamities or bad luck, sprinkle it in the direction of the threat. For new construction or additions, sprinkle it in the center of the site.

Anamori Inari Jinja offers more than spiritual solace; it invites you into a world where folklore and tradition intertwine, making every visit a magical experience.