In the Tokyo Stroll series, we take you on a trip to various locations around Japan’s capital. One of the frequent locations are shrines. In this entry, navigator Ellie takes a stroll to Imado Shrine in the Imado area of Asakusa where the first maneki-neko, or waving cat was created during the Edo Period. The shine is said to be the birthplace of the maneki-neko.
The closest station to Imado Shrine is Asakusa Station. It’s about a 15 minute walk from there, but you can reach it quicker on the Megurin Bus for just ¥100.
Emperor Ōjin is enshrined at Imado Shrine, as is Izanagi and Izanami, who are the central deities in Japan’s creation myth and the country’s first husband and wife deities. As such, the shrine is popular as a ‘power spot’ for successful marriage. The god of wealth and longevity and one of Asakusa’s Seven Lucky Gods, Fukurokuju, is also enshrined here. The shrine is also recognised as one of Tokyo’s 8 Shitamachi shrines that people make a pilgrimage to.
As always, when arriving at a shrine, wash your hands at the chozuya water purification basin before heading to the main shrine. Take the ladle with your right hand, scoop up plenty of water, and rinse your left hand first.
Next, switch hands. Hold the ladle with your left hand and rinse your right.
Then take the ladle with your right hand once more, pour some water into your left hand and rinse your mouth. Never bring the ladle directly to your mouth, and do not swallow the water or spit it back into the basin. There will be an area below the basin, like a bed of rocks, where you can spit the water out.
After rinsing your left hand one more time, pour out any remaining water into the rocks like the motion pictured above, and return the ladle.
Once you’ve finished purifying yourself at the chomizuya, it’s time to head to the main shrine. When praying, remember this: two bows, two claps, one bow. Straighten your posture and begin with two bows.
Clap twice and bow one final time.
Decorating the main shrine are waving cats the size of children! Their names are Nagi-chan and Nami-chan, a reference to Izanagi and Izanami. The patterned cat on the left is Nagi-chan, the male, and on the right Nami-chan, the female.
There are also stone cats sat by the shrine. There’s a rumour that if you set a photo of these cats to your phone’s wallpaper you’ll find a good matching partner for yourself! Generally, it’s said that waving cats with their right paw raised are for good financial luck while cats with their left paw in the air are beckoning humans. Nagi-chan and Nami-chan have their right paws raised. At Imado Shrine, it’s thought that it’s easier to call someone over with your dominant hand, and that people and money are interlinked, so even though they have their right paws up these waving cats are good for finding a match.
There are cats scattered all over the shrine grounds, so you’re sure to feel your heart warmed and healed simply by walking around.
The ema wooden plaques are an eye-catching sight around the grounds, packed together tightly around the sacred tree and around the chomizuya. Round-shaped ema aren’t seen very often, they are normally a square shape with a tip at the top. Ema are used for writing on your prayers and wishes. ‘Round’ in Japanese is en (円) which is a homophone also meaning ‘destiny’ (縁). The round-shaped ema originate from the idea of a sense of harmony and peace in life with nothing sticking out, i.e. a circle has no edges. To ensure your destiny, when you pray, write on the ema with a red string illustration around it, and when your prayer is fulfilled, write on the one with the kimono.
Once your prayers are all done, it’s time to head to the confer area. They have many things on display, including ema, waving cats, lucky charms and more.
Ellie gets herself a goshuin stamp for ¥300.
The goshuin stamp at Imado Shrine is waving cats and Fukurokuju.
They sell original goshuincho stamp books at the shrine with waving cat designs. There’s pink, blue and navy and they’re all very cute. If you’re thinking of starting to collect goshuin at shrines and temples around Japan then you should definitely visit Imado Shrine first.
There’s several different omamori charms too, including the regular designs as well as round designs. Just like the ema, the round designs are made to represent no ‘edges’ in your life, just harmony. They’re all ¥800 and each have the same effect. The pink one is limited-edition and has hearts embroidered on the front and back♡ The limited-edition designs change on a whim which many people look forward to.
Imado Shrine is also said to be the place where sword master Souji Okita met his fate, so if you’re a history buff be sure to check out the gravestone.
Imado Shrine is a must-visit while sightseeing in Asakusa. It has a happy aura to it thanks to the clowder of waving cats around. You can also see Tokyo Skytree from the grounds.
Photographer: Haruka Yamamoto
Writer: Sayoko Ishii
Translator: Joshua Kitosi-Isanga
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