Deities’ palanquins and Sumō wrestlers
You probably know already what the Shintō deity Hachiman (八幡 / はちまん) is all about, if you have been carefully reading this blog – the small but pretty “Konnō Hachimangū” in Shibuya has given some insight into his history before. This time it is about the biggest and most important of all the Hachiman shrines in Tōkyō, the Tomioka Hachimangū (富岡八幡宮 / とみおかはちまんぐう), which was founded in the year 1627 (at that time its grounds had just been reclaimed from the sea – in our days this area is virtually the centre of the city) and enjoyed particular support by the Tokugawa shōguns. Furthermore, Hachiman is also the protective deity of the Minamoto (源 / みなもと), former members of the imperial family that got demoted to the ranks of nobility. Support of the highest degree seemed to be ensured.
During the Meiji Restoration, however, the shrine lost the Tokugawa shōgun’s support, when he was disempowered – on the other hand it stayed in the favours of the Meiji Tennō who included the Tomioka Hachimangū in a list of the 10 most important shrines in Tōkyō. Nevertheless, the air raids of World War II., didn’t leave the shrine unharmed – it burned down completely in 1945 and was rebuilt after the war, this time as a concrete construction.
Of course there are more important and much older shrines in Japan which have been dedicated to the shinō deity Hachiman – first of all the Usa Hachimangū (宇佐八幡宮 / うさはちまんぐう) in the Ōita prefecture (大分県 / おおいたけん) on Japans southwesternmost main island Kyūshū (九州 / きゅうしゅう), which is the “head office” (so to speak) of the Hachiman cult. But, as it happens, in Tōkyō it is the biggest of them all and at the same time the core of one of the biggest festivals in town. The “Fukagawa Hachiman Festival” that is being held annually around the 15th of August, is regarded as one of the “big shrine festivals of Edo” (together with the Sannō-Festival at the Hie shrine in Akasaka and the Kanda Myōjin Festival in Kanda; some sources also mention the Sanja Festival in Asakusa in this context).
Should you ever have felt that Tōkyō was crawling with people, you have probably never seen one of these shrine festivals (have a look at the postings related to the one in Asakusa, the Sanja Matsuri (三社祭 / さんじゃまつり), if you want to get an impression of that without leaving the comfort of your home).
The Tomioka Hachimangū,however, has some more superlatives to offer, as on the occasion of its festivals it also outshines all others with the biggest mikoshi (神輿 / みこし) of Japan. Such a “mikoshi” is a “deity’s palaquin” so to speak, in which a the shrine’s deity is being carried around in the neighbourhood during these festivals – and it is done with a ballyhoo and all the gaiety you can imagine.
The two main mikoshi if the Tomioka Hachimangū can be seen right at the beginning of the approach to the shine on the left hand side (west side of the approach), where they are being kept under look and key (but on display!) during the course of the year. In order to give you a glimpse of the dimensions and the glory, here some data:
First Mikoshi of the main shrine (御本社一の宮神輿)
Built in 1991
Height: 4.39 metres
more than 4.5 tons of weight
One doesn’t even want to speculate over the value of such a miskoshi, if one knows that the chest of the phoenix on top of the mikoshi is graced by a 7 ct diamond and that the eyes of the “bird” consist of 4 ct diamonts.
Second Mikoshi of the main shrine (御本社二の宮神輿)
Built in 1997
Height: 3.27 metres
more than 2 tons of weight
With its two diamonds of 2.2 ct forming the eyes of the phoenix this mikoshi is comparatively “simple”….
It’s hard to guess how many carriers it takes to carry a mikoshi like that through the district.
And if you want to get a better understanding for the fabrication of such mikoshi, have a look at the following posting:
The Workshops of Miyamoto Unosuke (宮本卯之助)
– Where beating the drum is part of the craft…
There is one more thing the Tomioka Hachimangū is famous for: The Sumō Wrestler Memorial (横綱力士碑 / よこづなりきしひ) located on its grounds.
This impressive memorial was erected in 1900 (in the 33rd year of the Meiji Tennō’s rule) by the 12th Yokozuna (横綱 / よこづな), Jinmaku Kyūgorō (陣幕 久五郎 / じんまく・きゅうごろう). These “Yokozuna” are wrestlers of the top division of sumō, champions of the saisonal tournament. And since then all champions have been “eternalised” here with their “battle name” (四股名 / しこな), engraved in granite. The latest entry to date was carved in stone on October 7th 2014 by the champion Kakuryū Rikisaburō (鶴竜 力三郎 / はくほう・しょう), a Mongolian wrestler, born in 1985, who’s real name is Mangaljalavyn Anand.
There is a very simple reason why Sumō wrestlers have their memorial at a shrine:
After the feudal system had been abolished during the Meiji Restoration (2nd half of the 19th century), also Sumō had lost one of its major sponsors. However, since Sumō has been closely connected to shrine festivals since the earliest days of Japan and had a ceremonial and religious function in Shintō, it suggested itself to form an even closer liaison with Shintō that had just been “upgraded” to the quasi state religion of Japan by the Meiji Tennō.
By the way: The word “sumō” (相撲 / すもう) is much more profane than one might have thought, if one translates it literally. “相” means (at least in this context) “each other” and “撲” stands for “to hit/to beat”. It’s as simple as that…
And since you are in this corner of the shrine’s grounds, why don’t you also have a look at the shrine garden of the Nana Watari Jinja (七渡神社 / ななわたりじんじゃ) that is unfortunately mostly ignored by visitors.
How to get there:
Take the Tōkyō Metro Tōzai line (東京メトロ東西線 / とうきょうメトロとうざいせん) to Monzen Nakachō (門前仲町 / もんぜんなかちょう), Exit 1 (3 minutes walk) or
the Toei Subway Ōedo line (都営大江戸線 / とえいおおえどせん) to Monzen Nakachō as well (門前仲町 / もんぜんなかちょう), Exit 5 (6 minutes walk)
The shrine’s grounds are accessible daily around the clock.
No admission fee.
Please observe: There is also a shrine museum that can only be visited from 10 am to 3.30 pm. Admission fees apply depending on the age of the visitor and the exhibition’s area to be included.
Fukagawa Edo Museum (深川江戸資料館)
– A trip back in time to the old Edo
Fukagawa Fudōdō (深川不動堂)
– Where Ācala is protecting the wisdom of the Shingon School of Buddhism
Kiyosumi Teien (清澄庭園)
– The rather unknown one among the feudal gardens