Translated by Jasmine Nishino
Visit Namiyoke Shrine - A Short Stroll From Tsukijishijo Station!
Written by Yuki ISHIBASHI
Found a mere five minute walk from the Tsukiji Fish Market, Namiyoke Shrine is a unique shrine where many things related to the sea and sushi can be found. Find out more about this slightly different shrine in Tokyo here.
Only a short walk from Tsukiji Fish Market will bring you to Namiyoke Shrine.
At this shrine, you can find a tsuka (*1) made for sea creatures, which makes this shrine different from other standard shrines. Being fairly close to the famed fish market, this is a convenient place to drop by after touring around the market stalls.
*1 Tsuka: a man-made mound that is slightly higher than the surrounding areas. It is frequently used to calm spirits and is considered to be holy.
Interesting Stories About Namiyoke Shrine
The history of Namiyoke Shrine dates back to the time when the Tsukiji Market first started.
Tsukiji is a town constructed on top of reclaimed land. However, as they were processing the grounds, the land would not properly settle due to the rough waves.
In 1659, when they began to pray to the deity Ukanomitama-no-Mikoto, the waves suddenly became calm. This is said to be the start of the Namiyoke Shrine.
Ukanomitama-no-Mikoto is known to be a deity of yakuyoke (*2) that wards off disasters and cuts through incoming waves. Perhaps the reason why Tsukiji is safe and in its current state is thanks to Namiyoke Shrine.
This God has other names and is frequently referred to as the Inari God or Oinari-sama.
*2 Yakuyoke: a Shinto ritual that removes misfortune and suffering that slowly gathers on a daily basis.
Okitsune-sama, a God Loved by the Locals
In the common Japanese belief of Shintoism, the fox is said to be the messenger of the Inari God.
Ukanomitama-no-Mikoto is said to be the one who controls the foxes. Therefore, you will find many fox statues placed within the shrine grounds. Many of the locals pet them and drape handmade bibs around their necks.
The Two Lions and Namiyoke Shrine
In the Namiyoke Shrine grounds, you will also find a large statue of a lion. You may wonder why the king of the jungle may be sitting in Tsukiji, a place known to be facing the sea.
The reason derives from the Japanese belief of tigers and dragons ruling the wind and clouds. The lion is said to be the animal that can calm both the tiger and dragon in one roar. To keep the weather and waves calm, this lion was placed in Namiyoke Shrine. Even today, people who work at sea or do construction work by the sea come and pray at the shrine.
As Namiyoke Shrine has deep connections with lions, the Tsukiji Lion Festival is held on June 10th every year and on the Friday to Sunday before and after.
Seeing the female lion, weighing 0.7 tons called Ohaguro-Shishi, and the male lion, weighing 1 ton called the Yakuyoke Tenjo Dai-Shishi, parade across the town is quite intense. Many outdoor stalls open just for this event, which is part of the annual landscape of Tsukiji.
Ohaguro-Shishi on the Left
Ohaguro-shishi (*4) is in the Benzaitensha structure worshiping the goddess of music, good luck, and art. Benzaiten is a goddess related to water so a chozubachi (*5) can be found there as well.
*4 Ohaguro: traditional Japanese makeup in the Meiji period (1868-1912) where unmarried women would paint their teeth black.
*5 Chozubachi: a vessel with water where people can wash their hands and mouth and purify themselves before encountering the God.
Yakuyoke Tenjo Dai-Shishi on the Right
The Yakuyoke Tenjo Dai-Shishi is in a building called the Shishiden. Although the structure burnt down once, it was rebuilt with fervor and still houses the massive male lion to this day.
A Tsuka for Various Marine Creatures
If you step to the side of the main shrine, you will find a tsuka made for sushi ingredients.
This is the tamagozuka standing next to the Ohaguro Shishi. The tamago (egg) is used as an ingredient for sushi. Marking its thirtieth anniversary, the Egg Production Association made this in order to show thanks for eggs, and for their continued good fortune.
There are also other stone tsuka made for sushi ingredients.
Sushizuka for sushi.
Ebizuka for shrimp.
Ankozuka for monkfish. The monkfish is a deep sea creature that is frequently eaten in the winter.
Katsugyozuka for live fish. Katsugyo are fresh seafood that has been brought to land alive and kept in tanks before preparation.
At Namiyoke Shrine, they pray for the many sea creatures that are part of Japan's livelihood and diet.
Cute Charms for Souvenirs
There are plenty of souvenirs from Japan, but there are also many great souvenirs sold only at shrines. One of them is a charm that protects one from evil and brings good luck.
The Medetai is a charm that is said to bring good luck. Medetai is the Japanese word for happiness and a word used for celebration, while a tai is a red snapper, which makes this charm not only lucky, but a clever pun too.
Here is a cute lion charm that is said to ward away evil.
Try Your Luck With Omikuji
You'll find that most Japanese shrines have their own omikuji, or fortune telling slips. Why not try your luck and see what your fortune says?
At Namiyoke Shrine, you will find the omikuji in a box like shown in the photo above. Place 200 yen in the slotted box on the left-hand side and draw an omikuji (please note that only exact change is accepted and change is not available).
The text of the omikuji is written in English and Korean along with Japanese, so why not give it a try?
Being so close to the Tsukiji Fish Market, you can find many things related to the sea at Namiyoke Shrine. Why not extend your journey from Tsukiji and explore the shrine - you might even find your luck improving afterwards!
Address: Tokyo, Chuo, Tsukiji 6-20-37
Hours: Open all year
Credit Cards: -
Nearest Station: Tsukiji Station on the Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line, Tsukiji Shijo Station on the Toei Oedo Line
Access: 7-minute walk from Tsukiji Station., 5-minute walk from Tsukiji Shijo Station
Website: Namiyoke Shrine (Japanese)