I often ask people what they think of when I mention Japan, and the most common response I receive is “sushi.” A big staple in Japanese culture is this delicious cuisine, and the best place to try it is at the Tsukiji Fish Market. Famous all over the world, the Tsukiji Fish Market is known for having the freshest and most delicious sushi in the world. Visiting the market always promises huge crowds, especially early in the morning when fresh fish is delivered.
I visited the Tsukiji Market the other day, and I watched as crowds of tourists and locals shuffled through. I couldn’t help but wonder how many of these people knew that this land had not always been there. That’s right- Tsukiji sits upon reclaimed land. The land of Tsukiji was built back in the Manji era, an impressive feat for the time, but it was not done without struggle. During the reclamation, the work kept getting destroyed by waves. Eventually, a group of priests decided to float an image of Inari Myojin on to the sea in an attempt to calm them. After this was done, the construction was completed without issue. As a symbol of gratitude to the gods, a shrine was erected under the name “Namiyoke” meaning “Protection from Waves.”
The Namiyoke Inari Shrine has since sat in the same spot, which now is positioned right within the Tsukiji Fish Market. The shrine is always busy with people who come to see it after they eat sushi. Many people come here with the intention of praying for safe travels, due to the shrines backstory.
The Namiyoke Inari Shrine is particularly famous for the Tsukiji Shishi Matsuri Festival that occurs every June. During this festival, two gigantic lion heads are paraded through the town. Originally, there were several more of these lion heads, but unfortunately, all but these two were destroyed in the Kanto earthquake. However, these two lion heads have survived since they were created in 1848 and are able to be seen right inside the shrine. The male lion head (painted black) weighs one metric ton (2,200 pounds) and the female lion head (painted red) weighs 0.7 metric tons (1,500 pounds). These lion heads are considered a form of mikoshi (portable shrine) however the shrine also holds a standard, yet beautiful, mikoshi, which can be seen displayed at the shrine as well.
I had been forewarned by many that this shrine was not a pretty sight, thanks to its location in a very industrial area. However, I personally found the shrine to be charming and fun. I loved being able to see the gigantic lion heads and I thought its location by the fish market was exciting. For people who plan on visiting the Tsukiji Fish Market, this is an absolute must-see. With its convenient location and fascinating history, I see no reason why people shouldn’t go.
|Namiyoke Inari Jinja(Shrines)
|The Toei Ooedo Line at Tsukijisijoeki