The Hanazono Jinja(shrine) is located in the heart of Shinjuku Kabukicho, sandwiched between modern buildings and the bar district Shinjuku Golden Gai. It is a 10 minute walk from the JR Shinjuku Station. If you are tired of glittering and chaotic Kabukicho, it is good to take a rest at the Hanazono shrine where you can see a sacred shrine decorated with wooden and stone penises. Many merchants in Tokyo gather when Tori no Ichi(a traditional fair for lucky charms) is held and you can see them buy decorative kumade rakes. On stage at the fair, you can even see a freak show.
The Hanazono shrine was established in the 17th century. The copper lion statues(komainu) at the entrance were made in the 18th century and have survived fires and wars time and again.
When you go into the Hanazono shrine from Yasukuni street, there is a vermilion prayer hall on the left. Behind of this prayer hall is Shinjuku Golden Gai. It is quiet and still here, despite being in center of the chaotic red light district.
There are some interesting places in the Hanazono shrine. Let’s go and find them near the prayer hall. The picture above is the Raiden Inari shrine. People pray here in hopes of staying safe from lightning.
Next to the Raiden Inari shrine there is the Osame Daimyojin shrine. Worshippers throw away old ofuda(a kind of talisman sold at shrines) and kumade rakes here. The event of burning ofuda and serving amazake(sweet sake) is held every year on January 8th.
If you go through the red torii wooden gates, there lies the Itoku Inari Daimyojin shrine. You can find a large wooden penis lining the upper side of the shrine, bound with chains. Behind the shrine, there is also a stone penis and balls. This shrine is for happy marriages and having children. How about praying secretly for avoiding venereal diseases before you play in Kabukicho?
There is also the Geinou(entertainment) Asama shrine. This shrine has attracted the faith of people involved in the entertainment industry including singers, actors, and movie stars. The names of entertainers who donated were carved in the stones of this shrine. A monument with the lyrics of Blossoming Night Dreams sung by Keiko Fuji stands beside the shrine. Keiko Fuji is a former well-known enka singer and the mother of the famous singer Hikaru Utada. She sang dark, gloomy songs depicting the feelings of night women and songs about Shinjuku. She died by jumping from the Shinjuku building at the age of 62.
In November the Tori no Ichi is held at shrines around Tokyo. In the Hanazono shurine, Tori no Ichi will be held on November 4th, 5th, 16th, 17th, 28th, 29th in 2015. The grounds are lined with kumade rake shops and food stands, and the shrine is crowded with merchants who want to buy them.
Kumade rakes are lucky charms and it has been said that they bring good fortune for business and larger ones are more lucky, so merchants who own shops want to buy larger ones. As this is Shinjuku, there are many yakuza(Japanese mafia) and hosts(who work for host clubs, the male version of hostess clubs) who also want to buy kumade rakes.
There is also Misemono Goya, a kind of freak show. For example, there is a woman who eat bugs among other acts. It is rare to see Misemono Goya and it is said to be disappearing, so check it out!
[How to go] a 10 minute walk from the East Exit of JR Shinjuku Station
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