For a cultural immersion most travelers to Japan head to Kyoto, the cultural capital of the country. Understandably so, but Tokyo has many hidden gems and one in my neighborhood Tomioka Hachiman Shrine at Monzen nakacho is one of them. If you are interested in the history of the Sumo sport, this shrine should be on your to-do-list in Tokyo.
Kanjin Zumo or the regular sumo tournaments were initiated at the Tomioka Hachiman-gu Shrine in Eastern Edo in the late 1600s! Known as the birth place of martial arts sumo,Tomioka Hachiman-gu is an awesome place for Sumo lovers interested in Sumo history. This is the location of the Yokozuna Stone and has all Yokozuna names scribed in the stone!Walkable distance 2 minutes from the Tokyo Metro Tozai Line station Monzen-Naka-Cho, the shrine is quite busy in the days of new year with many people lining up for the “Hatsu-mode” or new year’s shrine visit. Contrast this with evenings when there is not a soul in sight at the shrine and has a tranquil atmosphere then……
The deity enshrined here is Hachiman, often called the god of war. Hachiman is also considered the divine protector of Japan and the Japanese people, and the Imperial house.
Throughout the Japanese medieval period, the worship of Hachiman spread across Japan among not only samurai, but also the peasantry. So much so was his popularity that presently there are 25000 Shinto shrines in Japan dedicated to Hachiman, the second most numerous after shrines dedicated to Inari.As I said earlier, this shrine is popular among the sumo wrestlers and on the right hand back side of the shrine is the location of the Yokozuna Stone. It has all Yokozuna names carved in stone! Unless you read Japanese it can difficult to decipher the same, but, this place is worth a visit if you are a Sumo fan for sure.
Ema, the wooden plaque on which the worshippers write their prayers or wishes on also has a Sumo wrestler painting on it with the Hachiman Shrine illustration in the background. Twice a year, sumo wrestlers from Tokyo come here to pray and greet this monument before the sumo season.Apart from the new year celebrations, Tomioka Hachimangu Shrine also hosts one of the biggest summer festival of Tokyo in mid-August. Known as one of the three ‘great festivals’ of Edo, it is celebrated in all its glory only once every three years with the last one in 2014 and now the next one in 2017.If you want to have an authentic Japanese experience, do not forget to visit the shrine in the evenings and ensure that you also visit the backside of the shrine. The backside of the shrine is really beautiful with small ponds with koi fish and in the night time the overall lightup and the ambience is a very nice experience.Beautiful lamps and the overall ambience especially at night, you will feel as if you are not in central Tokyo but in the cultural hub, city of Kyoto. The shrine is lit up in the evenings and the below images are some samples of the illumination. There is one more thing of the Hachiman Shrine. One of the great treasures of the shrine is its 4-ton ichi-no-miya mikoshi, the biggest mikoshi (portable shrine) in the Kanto region. It is said that the value of the mikoshi decorations of diamonds, rubies and saphires stands at about an outstanding one billion yen!!!!One more night time view, which I took last year at the shrine.In 2005, I discovered that there was a flea market at the shrine. I keep going to the venue a couple of times every year. The flea market takes place on every 1st, 15th and 28th of every month. The flea market attracts significant crowds and the products, similar to other flea markets, invoke a certain nostalgia. Tomioka Hachimangu Shrine has a long-established variety of goods for visitors who seek good and old items. I have collected many rare coins, postcards and stamps, and the decoration in the hallway of my apartment consists of many items I picked up at the market. Unfortunately I have not seen much English speaking sellers at the venue, but all sellers are usually very polite and helpful. Kindly note that the flea market takes place every month except January.
Tomioka Hachimangu Shrine location :
Address : 1-20-3 Tomioka, Koto-ku, Postal code:135-0047