|Temple of Tori "Chokoku-ji"
was established in 1630. That time, the Washimyoken Bodhisattva (Washidaimyojin)
had been carried to Chokoku-ji in Asakusa from the great head temple "Jusen-ji"
(today it locates in Mobara city, Chiba prefecture.) and unveiled in November
on the day of the Tori (Rooster) in Chinese calendar.
The Asakusa Tori no Ichi (open-air market) started as a fair to have many visitors
in front of the temple of Asakusa "Chokoku-ji" on the day of the exhibition
of a statue of Washimyoken Bodhisattva.
|In 1771, Buddhist priest, Nichigen, enshrined the Washidaimyojin
(the Washimyoken Bodhisattva) to Chokoku-ji of Asakusa from Jusen-ji. Since then,
people called Asakusa Washidaimyojin ÒOtori-sama" familiarly and they also
called Chokoku-ji "Temple of Tori". Thus the shrine enshrined Washidaimyojin
generally came to be called "Temple of Washidaimyojin" and "Shrine
of Washi (Eagle)".
In the middle of the Edo period, the Asakusa Tori no Ichi
became more prosperous than the Hanamatamura Tori no Ichi, which is the birth
place. (It is Otori Shrine located in Adachi-ku, Tokyo). Bamboo Rake with decorating
Oban-koban (former Japanese oval gold coin) and Okame (mask of bringing good luck)
fascinated people who eagerly hope to happiness, wealth and good business. There
were other various bamboo rakes for good luck; for example, a sweet decollated
hairpin of bamboo rake was popular at Shin-Yoshiwara pleasure quarter.
There were other special things on the fair but bamboo rakes.
"Kashira no Imo (steamed taro)" and "Koganemochi (Japanese rice
cake)" were poplar and theywere appeared in NISHIKI-E (color woodblock print)
with beautiful women of those days.
|On the other hand, apart from Bamboo Rake of good
luck, a small bamboo rake with ear of fine rice as a charm for bringing the happiness
was sold at Chokoku-ji. This charm is still sold there only on the day of the
A period of time, "Chasen (a tea whisk of bamboo)" and "Imadoyaki
Ningyo clay doll" attracted visitor as a souvenir. An essay and illustration
described these special things on the fair have come down to these days.
Hanamata Washidaimyojin was far from 12Km from a center of
Edo town (now Tokyo), and there was a picnic place in one-day trip. People visited
there by rowing a Yanebune (house boat) in the Ayase River, riding a horse and
going on foot.
It is said that Hanamatamura was usually a quiet village but it changed to a flourish
city only on the day of Tori no Ichi.
An attraction was a gamble in front of the gate of a shrine, and people also played
it on the Yanebune in the Ayase River. However it seems that the government
gave the low of prohibition to gamble there in 1776. Since then, the prosperous
fair moved to Tri no Ichi of Chokoku-ji in Asakusa.
A culture of tradesmen and artisan was splendid in the Edo
period and the prosperous Tori no Ichi was the ideal subject of literature.
A poet, Kikaku, who was a pupil of the most famous poet Matsuo Basho in the Edo
period, composed a poem of Tori no Ichi "Haruwomatsu kotonohajimeya Tori
no Ichi"(Tori no Ichi is a first important event to bring New Year.). "Senryu
(17syllable poem including cynical and comical expressions)", which related
to the gamble and Shin-Yoshiwara pleasure quarter, also was popular. Those literatures
were handed down to today.
Nishiki-E (color wood block print) also became popular. A
famous landscape painter, Hiroshige painted the landscape of Edo town and this
book was very famous as Edo's guidebook called "EHON EDO MIYAGE" The
6 section of this book was introduced "Asakusa Tori no Machi (Fair)"
which was looked from a rice field of Asakusa.
|Gates of Shin-Yoshiwara pleasure quarter, where
was adjacent to east side of Chokoku-ji, usually closed, but several other gates
with a main gate were opened only on the day of Tori no Ichi. That gave a boost
to the fair all the more.
In 1868, after a new government ordinance separated Shintoism
from Buddhism,one part of Chokoku-ji became Otori Shrine, which hold its own Tori
no Ichi at the same time as Chokoku-ji's fair.
|The Asakusa Tori no Ichi fair is still flourishing
today and represents a continuing tradition from Edo period, when townspeople
came to the temple of Chokoku-ji to give thanks for the health and safety of their
families and to pray for good fortune and happiness in the year to come.