Tucked away right next door to one of Tokyo’s biggest and busiest tourist attractions lies the Namiyoke Inari Shrine. This shrine is located in the Tsukiji prefecture, about one block away from the Tsukiji fish market. Although the shrine may be small in size, it’s incredibly large in history.
The history of the Namiyoke Inari Shrine dates all the way back to the late 17th century. In 1657, Tokyo was devastated by the Great Fire of Meireki. It was then that the Japanese government decided to fill in the coastal area of Tokyo. However, one spot suffered from constant storms. The waves kept washing away the land as soon as workers reclaimed it, making construction incredibly difficult. According to legend, the waves and winds stopped after locals found the body of an inari god (protector of the harvest) that had emerged on the ocean’s surface. After people began to worship the god, reclamation work on the land progressed smoothly. To honor the gods, they built the Namiyoke Inari shrine, which when translated means “protector of waves”.
In 1923, the Great Kantō earthquake destroyed the original market. This forced the market to move to its current location in Tsukiji. Since then the Namiyoke Inari Shrine became an unofficial guardian shrine for the marketplace and its traders. The courtyard of the shrine is dotted with various memorial plaques and carvings donated by trade groups in the marketplace.
To celebrate this, the shrine holds a festival every three years. It is known as Tsukiji Shishi Matsuri or the “Dancing Lion Festival”. During this festival, the two large lion heads which can be seen at the front of the shrines are paraded throughout Tsukiji. These lion heads are two of the last remaining hand carved lion heads of the late 19th century, making this festival truly an incredible sight to see.
So whether you plan on attending the festival or maybe you just find yourself exploring the fish market, take some time to explore Namiyoke Inari. What it lacks in size it makes up for in incredible details and history.
Name: Namiyoke Inari
Japanese name: 波除稲荷神社
Address: 6-20-37, Tsukiji, Chūō, Tokyo 104-0045