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I went to Torinoichi Market, the midnight attraction of Edo!

Published : November 12, 2016
Production area : Tokyo
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Hello, I’m Kanako from SUNCHI editorial desk.
Hello, I’m Kanako from SUNCHI editorial desk. Before we knew it the winter has come. When it’s about the time of putting a heavy coat, we would start to count down the days for a certain festival. The clock has struck twelve midnight. When a drum sounded people flooded into a precincts of the shrine. Even though it’s midnight, the site was lit so bright and it lined a lot of stalls with “Kumade” bamboo rakes piled up to look up. Dynamic cries of sellers were exchanged here and there. It’s Ohtori shrine in Asakusa, Tokyo. I went to Torinoichi Market for good business held in “Torinohi” or Cock’s day sccording to the traditional Chinese 12 animal zodiac in November.

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What’s Torinoichi Market?

There is a Haiku of Kikaku, a disciple of Basho. “Haruomatsu Kotonohajimeya Torinoichi”. Torinoichi is a festival wishing for good business since Edo period. Various size of Kumade as lucky charm are sold at stalls in the shrine and people look for each favorite and bargain with them having a fun. In Tokyo It’s held in many shrines now but it’s only the two Ohtori shrines in Hanabatake and Asakusa that lasts since Edo period. Especially in Asakusa, Kumade stalls are numbered to 150 and visitors are 700,000 to 800,000 every year, which makes it notable nationwide.

I went to Ichinotori, the first Torinoichi market.

Traditionally it’s held on Torinohi or cock’s day in November. Sometimes it’s held three times depending on a year. I visited the first market. It starts at the twelve midnight and lasts 24 hours. Assuming a big crowd I was on site at 11:00pm but already there was a long queue for worship! A local said this was less crowded. Sometimes the line reaches two blocks away. Lanterns which show the entrance of the market were set up in the street to the shrine, which made me so excited.

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Some in the line already got a lucky Kumade in their hands. That was for the last year. At the entrance of the shrine, there is a drop off place for Kumade. It’s the practice to return the last Kuamde before worship and buy the new one.

It’s 0:00am. The gate’s open!

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The sound of drum was made and the gate was opened. People awaited long rushed into the site. People had filled the main site in a blink. The bells hanged down were constantly rang out overhead and there, the lines of lanterns seemingly over 100 pieces. Those were loomed out in the darkness and gave a fantastic view kind of a time slip.

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Have a fun with bargaining

The side walks from the precincts were arcaded and the stalls selling Kumade jostled against one another. I was done with worship, and went into the fray for Kumade!

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“Hey, stop at us.”
“You’re the first come and we’ll give you lots of free gift.”
“We’ll put Oiri bukuro for free of charge.”
“Staffs here are all young.”

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I was called from everywhere. When I found my favorite, it’s time for bargaining. The price will be decided under negotiation here. Tell them your rough budget and don’t hesitate asking any question. Shape and size varies. It’s from 3000 yen to several hundreds of thousand yen. If you bargain with them, you’ll get free optional charms like rice ears, a full-house bonus bag, a name plate of your own. Don’t be shy and enjoy bargaining!

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When a deal come through, they will close with “tejime” a hand- clapping ceremony. Kumade what I bought was for this SUNCHI, so they made a special call for SUNCHI’s prosperity before hand-clapping. We clapped our hands together and people around us smiled in a festive mood. This call and hand clapping were heard everywhere which was the most characteristic for Torinoichi market.

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I’ve got Kumade of my dream!

The call was heard here and there. The staff and customer were in a smile.

A secret of Kumade

“For your information”, a shop staff told me the meaning of Oiribukuro, full house bonus bag.

“It has a 5 yen coin inside. When you come back with this Kumade next year, you give this back at the entrance of the shrine and worship with this 5 yen. Then, please come back to us and buy the new one.”

What a sweet and good operation. I realized the shrine didn’t worship the deity for good business for nothing. It was fun as if I saw a traditional business technique. It’s a custom to buy a bigger Kumade than the one last year. It’s to bring good luck for more prosperity.

Unfortunately it was raining, but they kindly put a plastic rain cover for my Kumade.

“Don’t cover Kumade while you’re here so that you scrape the fortune as much as you can. When you get back home, please take it off soon!”

It was friendly service.

Recommended souvenir

Well, now that I’ve got the favorite, let’s have a fun of the other part of the market. We came all the way here I’d love to buy some souvenirs.Many kinds of charms for prosperous business and Kumade were sold at the shrine office. For the people who hesitate to have a big Kumade but wish to have something for good luck, I recommend a small Kumade keyholder. It’s the charm for the prosperity of business and family.

The shrine office, having a hectic time

Let me suggest another souvenir that you can swallow.Torinoichi reminds me of “Kirizansho”, a rice cake with sugar and grained “Sansho” or Japanese papper. It lined with food stalls along the street to the shrine and among them was a kirizansho stall with red store curtain which says kirizansho in an oldish calligraphy.

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It’s said that the smell of sansho in kirizansho and its medical effect would ward off bad fortune and help not catching a cold during the winter. Something sweet like kirizansho made a hit in Edo period because there were few sweets at that time and people habitually bought kirizansho along with Kumade at markets and festivals. The white package written with Kumade of “Okame” woman gives off a sansho scent before it’s unpacked. It awakened a little weary body of mine from the heat of the market.

When I was rambling about stalls out of the shrine, I found a eat-in stall where people were enjoying ”yakitori” or grilled chicken and “oden” with Kumade in their hands. Being seduced by the steam rising from a large pan and passed through a “noren” shop curtain, I felt as if I were a local person who had been living there from her childhood.

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“Ninotori”, the second market will be held on November 23rd this year. How about going for the fun of the spirit of Edoite?

Asakusa Otori ShrineTorinoichi market
Ichinotori, the first market: November 11th
Ninotori, the second market: November 23rd
Time: 24 hours from 12:00am midnight on each day

Writer and Photographer: Kanako Ojima

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