Don't Miss Japan's Annual Traditional Festival in Asakusa | Tori no Ichi 2018

Tokyo Culture 2018.11.08
Japanese Festival near Asakusa
Formerly, Japan used to combine the twelve zodiac signs (rat, snake, tiger, rabbit, etc) with the system of Jikkan (the ten celestial stems), which were applied to their calendar. "Tori-no-Ichi" (酉の市) goes with those Japanese customs, being held on the days of the rooster in November. Days of the rooster are every 12 days in November, so that means Tori-no-Ichi is normally held 3 times! This year (2018) Tori-no-Ichi is held on Nov. 1, 13, 25th. We went in last year, and since it is not that well known among foreigners we had to share this special Japanese festival that is held annually we thought we would share about it so you can go this year! 

🐷Tori-no-Ichi Festival
Place: Chokokuji Temple and Otori Shrine (it takes up two areas)​
Google Maps
Access: Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line - Iriya Station or Minowa Station (10min walk)
2018 dates: Nov. 1, 13, 25

About Tori-no-Ichi (酉の市)

The story behind Tori-no-Ichi goes quite back into Japanese history regarding the myth of the Yamato dynasty prince Yamato Takeru no Mikoto who is now enshrined in the Otori Jinja Shrine. After a battle with a tribe in the east, Yamato went to a shrine to pray and dedicated his war rake (kumade) to the deity Amenohiwashi no Mikoto there. This happened on the Day of the Rooster, so the shrine's priest made that day a special one to celebrate the both Yamato Takeru no Mikoto and Amenohiwashi no Mikoto. Following into the Edo period, on this day many came to wish for good health, good fortune, and good business. Rakes (kumade) stalls are put on the property of the shrines and people sell an array of lucky kumades with colorful symbols of good fortune, believed to bring wealth and success to the purchasers.

About the Kumade (熊手) 

During Tori-no-Ichi, people wishing for prosperity in business or for better fortune in various endeavors for the year to come, buy a decorated bamboo rake called a "kumade" which is viewed as a special talisman. Both the kumade itself and the objects or charms on it have a special meaning. The kumade itself is supposed to help its owner "rake in" money and good fortune, the gold Edo period coins are to attract large sums of money, the plum/pine/bamboo branches are symbols of good luck, the sea bream (tai in Japanese) is to promise success, etc. Since Tori-no-Ichi has ties to the old calendar using the Chinese zodiac, every year the "main" decoration incorporated in the kumade rakes follow that of the following year. So last year when we went, the coming year (2018) would be the year of the dog so many of the rakes had gods included. 2019 will be the year of the boar/pig, so this year they were the main concept.

Something important in mentioning in the tradition of when a rake is sold, it is common for the seller(s) and buyer(s) to clap their hands rhythmically with one another (known as the "sanbon-jime"). Why do this though? It is said to be a way of both the sellers and the buyers wishing each other good luck and sealing the transfer to the kumade's new owner. If you go to the Tori-no-Ichi Festival you will be sure to hear this rhythmical clap all over!

Other Things to Do and See at Tori-No-Ichi​

Aside from walking around checking out the intricate kumade rakes, there is a traditional Japanese performance 3 times a day! The times are 6pm, 8pm, and midnight. Just go to the very end where the shrine is and you will see the building in the picture on the top left. There are two sides to see it from and the performers go back and forth to each side so you will be sure to see the musical performance. The performance isn't anything spectacular, but it was something cultural to see. After the performance, you can go into the shrine but be prepared for a ridiculous crowd to get in.
It wouldn't be a festival without all the great food stands! Be sure to come with a hungry stomach because there was so much good food to choose from! We recommend buying your own drinks from a convenience store or someplace because the drinks are overpriced for what you are getting.  

A Rare Experience
You Should Not Miss

Before entering my company, I had never heard of Tori-no-Ichi before. So before going I even asked around to my Japanese friends and husband, but I was even more surprised to hear that they had never heard of it either. But once you are there and surrounded by all the people shouting and clapping, you will realize that this is a one of a kind Japanese festival. You don't have to be in a company to buy a kumade rake. There are all sorts of sizes and details, not a single one is the same. So if you would like to buy a small one as a souvenir, you may be able to haggle them down a bit. The festival goes on until 2am allowing you plenty of time to look around and enjoy yourself. I am so grateful my company goes every year, because it has really become a time of the year that I look forward to. If you happen to be in Tokyo during November, I really recommend you going to Tori-no-Ichi because it's a really fun festival that is something different from what you would see at other Japanese matsuris.

🐷 Tori-no-Ichi Festival
Place: Chokokuji Temple and Otori Shrine (it takes up two areas)
Google Maps
Access: Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line - Iriya Station or Minowa Station (10min walk)
2018 dates: Nov. 1, 13, 25
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