Torigoe Shrine in Taito ward, Tokyo, is an ancient Shinto shrine over 1,300 years old, and a picturesque, photogenic spot to visit near Asakusabashi and Kuramae.
- Yamato Takeru no Mikoto
- Split Level
- Stone Torii Gates
- Japan Temples & Shrines
Torigoe Shrine is an approximately 1,300 year old Shinto shrine in southern Taito ward, Tokyo. It is a picturesque neighborhood shrine near the Kuramae and Asakusabashi districts, and is worth a brief visit.
Torigoe Shrine main building, Torigoe, Taito ward, Tokyo
Torigoe Shrine's roots are a mix of birds and warriors. The shrine's history is said to go back to the 7th century, specifically 651 A.D. At that time, the ancestors of most of today's Japanese were driving out the native Ainu "barbarians." The leading warrior was the legendary Prince Yamato Takeru no Mikoto. And it is said that he stayed for a while in the area where the shrine now is. At that time the locals founded a shrine in memory of his stay called Shiratori ("White Bird") Shrine.
Komainu lion, Torigoe Shrine, Taito-ku, TokyoRoof of main building of Torigoe Shrine, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Then, about 400 years later the samurai warrior Minamoto no Yoshiie was active in this part of Japan. His role, again, was as defender against the northern "barbarians." Such was his prowess in war that he was given the name "Hachiman," the ancient god of war.
Legend has it that Minamoto no Yoshiie received advice from a white bird in what is now the Torigoe area. The bird told him of the existence of a nearby sand bar. Thanks to this, he was able to maneuver his army and achieve victory. From this came the name "Torigoe": tori meaning "bird" and goe meaning "going over."
Inside Torigoe Shrine, Taito-ku, Tokyo, with chozuya at left.
Incidentally, referring to a sand bar in what is now a completely landlocked area may sound odd. However, at that time, Tokyo Bay came all the way up to where Asakusabashi and Torigoe are.
At the beginning of the Edo era, the Tokugawa Bakufu government began creating what is now the Kuramae district. It ordered that the hill on which Torigoe Shrine stood be excavated and used as land fill. Torigoe thus lost its elevated position to create land for the Shogun's rice storage granaries (the "Asakusa Mikura").
in front of main building, Torigoe Shrine, Tokyo
Yamato Takeru no Mikoto
Torigoe Shrine is dedicated to the legendary warrior, Yamato Takeru no Mikoto. And, being legendary, he is said to have been an outstanding all-rounder. So, unlike at some Shinto shrines that cater to specific purposes (e.g., success), people petition Yamato Takeru no Mikoto for anything.
Outside Torigoe Shrine, Taito-ku, Tokyo, showing its split level.
Torigoe Shrine's most unusual feature dates back to the destruction of the hill on which it stood. It is not apparent from the front, which is level with the road, or from within the shrine itself. But go around the back and you'll see that it is split level. The whole main shrine structure is elevated on a platform supported by columns, and there are stairs up to the back of the grounds.
Stone Torii Gates
Stone torii main gate of Torigoe Shrine, Taito-ku, Tokyo.
There is a large, imposing stone torii gate at the main, south-east, entrance facing Kuramaebashi-dori Avenue. And there is another, slightly smaller, one at the south-west entrance off the main Avenue and another at the rear of the shrine.
Just inside the main torii gate, to the left, is the chozuya water trough for ritually washing the hands and mouth. Straight ahead from the entrance is a small inari (fox) sub-shrine called Jufuku Shrine. To the left of that is the shrine office.
Chozuya font, Torigoe Shrine, Taito-ku, Tokyo.
Next to the chozuya is the shed housing the omikoshi sacred floats carried around the streets during the shrine festival.
The front of the main shrine building is flanked by two elaborately carved white komainu lion dogs.
Greenery in Torigoe Shrine, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Torigoe Shrine is a very green shrine, with a number of large trees and attractive groves of flora. The several plum and cherry trees make for a beautiful sight in spring, when they blossom.
Storehouse for the omikoshi portable shrines, Torigoe Shrine, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Torigoe Shrine's main festival (or reitaisai) is on June 9 every year. However, this is mainly rituals carried out in the shrine itself. The real spectacle is the Torigoe Night Festival, on the Sunday nearest June 9. This is when the massive omikoshi portable shrines are paraded through the streets of the Torigoe district to great general excitement.
The tondo-yaki rite takes place on January 8 every year. A bonfire is lit the old-fashioned way, using flintstones, and people throw their New Year decorations on it. The mochi rice cakes baked using fire from the bonfire are said to ward off sickness and accidents. This is the sole remaining instance of this ritual in the whole of Tokyo.
Stone torii gate at side entrance of Torigoe Shrine, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Nagoshi no Harae
The Nagoshi no Harae is a Shinto summer purification ritual carried out on the last day of the sixth lunar month. Torigoe Shrine's Nagoshi no Harae happens on June 30, when people pass through a huge ring of woven cogon grass. Going through the ring is called "chinowa no kuguri."
Sub-shrine inside Torigoe Shrine, Taito-ku, Tokyo
The Suijosai (literally "On-the-Water Festival") happens on July 1 at the nearby Sumida River. Floating lanterns bearing straw dolls are cast onto the river.
The Kusanagi Jinji ritual at Torigoe Shrine on the first Day of the Rooster in November guards against fire. This day is when many Shinto shrines have their colorful Tori no Ichi. The most famous one isn't far from Torigoe Shrine: jointly in Ohtori Shrine and Chokokuji Temple in nearby Senzoku.
Torigoe Shrine has rituals every month, on 9th, 19th and 29th.
Torigoe Shrine is accessible from:- Exit A4 of Asakusabashi Station on the Asakusa Subway Line (7 minutes walk)- the East Exit of Asakusabashi Station on the JR Chuo-Sobu Line (8 minutes walk)- Exit A1 of Kuramae Station on the Asakusa Subway Line (6 minutes walk)- Exit A6 of Kuramae Station on the Oedo Subway Line (11 minutes walk)
Torigoe Shrine, 2-4-1 Torigoe, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Rear entrance of Torigoe Shrine, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Just west of Torigoe Shrine is the little shopping alley of Okazuyokocho, characterized by stores selling prepared traditional foods. Okazuyokocho preserves something of the old Tokyo atmosphere.