There’s nothing like a Shrine visit to break up the routine.
It’s strictly a coincidence and nothing to do with Gingitsune, but I paid a visit to Kameido Tenjinja in Eastern Tokyo today. The weather was perfect and I was in dire need of a mental health day, and the Shrine – in addition to holding its annual Chrysanthemum Festival, is one of the most popular places in Tokyo for “Shichi-Go-San”.
What is Shichi-Go-San? It’s yet another Japanese tradition that seems strange yet charming to Western minds, wherein 3 and 5 year-old boys and 3 and 7-year old girls (mukashi mukashi, 3 year-olds of both genders stopped having their heads shaved, 5 year-old boys were allowed to wear hakama in public, and 7 year-old girls allowed to use an obi instead of a cord to tie their kimonos) are wrestled into full kimono and taken to Shrines to pray for good fortune. Theoretically it falls on the weekend closest to November 15, but it seems to spread out over several weeks these days.
Turtle-shaped gifts are part of the tradition, and Kameido Tenjinja is famous for turtles (the Shrine and the neighborhood which surrounds it is named for the turtle) thus the Shrine’s popularity for Shichi-Go-San. The Kame Kami from Gingitsune would have been ecstatic here – I’ve never seen so many turtles in one place, or such huge koi. The Shrine is actually dedicated to Sugiwara no Michizane as all Tenjin Shrines are – I’ve chronicled visits to others before. Michizane is revered across Japan as one of history’s greatest scholars and poets, which makes Tenjin Shrines hugely popular for students to pray for academic success.
It was an eventful day off. I stopped off on the way at Sumida Triphony Hall to buy a concert ticket (because Eplus wouldn’t take my American credit card, even with a Tokyo billing address) and managed to get through the entire transaction without resorting to Engrish, always a moral victory. I stopped in Akiba on the way home and snapped this (I kind of like the random minivan for scale), then when I got home I finally had the dreaded visit – the NHK man. Clever bastard, making his rounds on Halloween! These guys live up to their reputation. I was taken totally by surprise, expecting a trick-or-treater, but managed an “Excuse me – Nihonga wa tabemasen” in the nick of time.