Tokyo Diaries – Kameido Tenjinja

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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.

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  1. e

    The restoring power of shrines and good weather ne? πŸ˜€
    Uwah the kids in traditional garb <3
    A friend of mine is nuts for turtles (truth to be told her red striped pet turtle is extraordinary charming) . I'm totally linking her this page for her personal English training X,D.

    'tabemasen'? :,D . Is the NHK that NHK? Ooooh you're sooo teasing us.

  2. The whole deal of the "NHK Man" is too much the legend for me to recount – it's a job for Google. Murakami wrote a novel about it.

    Japanese kids are insanely kawaii to begin with, and then when you put them in full traditional dress? Yikes.

  3. e

    Ha! Thanks for the hint. The only Murakami book I've read – and loved to bits – was Noruwei no Mori (in Italian they went for 'Tokyo Blues – Norwegian Wood' as title for the early editions) .
    If anyone else is curious there's a relevant sample here it explains the NHK bit (page 1-2).

    No kidding (eh) they're pullin my motherly instinct back from retirement. And I thought GeK was bad enough for that… X,D.

  4. R

    Thanks elianthos80 for the link — what an addictive story. Now I want to buy his 1Q84.

  5. Great book – though I prefer Kafka on the Shore.

  6. R

    K, that's two books that I wanted to buy…shopping this weekend :-).

  7. Z

    The only Murakami book I've read is one about running of all things. I preferred Yoshimoto Banana.

  8. R

    Thanks. That's lots of choices…I'm excited, and I think I will be stuck in the bookstore for hours.

  9. e

    @Ronbb: among Yoshimoto Banana's books I tend to prefer her short stories (in English they have translated both the Asleep and Lizard anthology, the latter is my personal favourite). Novels-wise I'd suggest Kitchen and N.P. , Amrita was also good but a bit uneven.
    Sly has not been translated into English apparently and it's a pity because setting-wise is a nice departure from her standard (the characters travel to Egypt so you get the Banana goggles on Egyptian art 8D ).

  10. R

    Thanks for all the recommendations. We have turned Enzo's blog to a book club ;-p.

  11. F

    Oooo… chysanthemum festival and shiki-go-san eh? Sounds nice. Would have also liked to have seen it.

    Very nice pics too.

    Nothing to do with Gingitsune eh? I don't believe it! πŸ˜›

  12. R

    I miss you Tokyo Diaries post, and I'm happy to see you getting some meditation — visiting a shrine sure is revitalizing. The weather looked beautiful — such clear sky — and the kids were adorable in their traditional costumes. The funniest part was how you fended off the NHK man — your "tabemasen" was awesome, and now I want to know the expression on his face and what he said to you. Was he in shock and did he leave right away?

  13. Well, that's an old trick I was taught right after I moved here… The NHK guy's expression was sort of a resigned "fuck it, not worth it" and he just nodded and left.

  14. R

    Bwahahaha…love it.

  15. Y

    ha ha "Nihonga wa tabemasen" is classic… I gotta admit, I pulled the same kinda trick in the US a few times (English is my second language), but the "tabemasen" is just too funny πŸ˜€

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