Tokyo Jizake Strolling (Shibamata Taishakuten)

By Ryuji Takahashi  

I visited Shibamata Taishakuten Nichiren-shu Buddhist Temple early in the New Year. It’s been thirty years since I moved to Tokyo, yet I’ve never visited the temple once. Since I’ve never seen the film series, “It’s Tough Being a Man,” I was convinced I had no reason to visit. I was proven wrong however. Shibamata Taishakuten is a reputable Nichiren Buddhist Temple built by two monks during the Edo Period (1603-1868) in 1629 (the current building was built after the Meiji Period (1868-1912)). The official temple name is “Hyoei-zan Daikyoji,” yet often referred to locally as “Taishakuten.”     
The temple is mentioned in literary works such as “To the Spring Equinox and Beyond” by author Soseki Natsume. More recently, the temple is most renowned due to the Japanese film series, “It’s Tough Being a Man.” Therefore, a statue of the main character, Tora-san, stands in front of the Shibamata Station. I rode the train to the Keisei-takasago Station and took the Keisei Kanamachi Line to the Shibamata Station. Since the wait time to switch trains was fifteen minutes, and the walking distance from Keisei-takasago Station was also fifteen minutes, I started walking towards Shibamata Station.     
The pathway to the shrine starts in front of the station. Passengers deboarded the train and immediately started taking photos standing next to the statue of Tora-san. Several restaurants stood in front of the railroad station. It seemed many restaurants served yakisoba, perhaps a local specialty. Walking on the bustling pathway to the shrine, I encountered many pedestrians with skewered mugwort dumplings and sweet sake in hand as they passed by. I regretted not visiting this bustling pathway to the shrine for the past thirty years.    
A newcomer to Taishakuten, I eyed the restaurant Freshwater Fish Cuisine, where a long line of guests stood at the front waiting for the eatery to open, and the rice cracker shop, as I passed by without stopping. I thought to first visit the shrine and headed towards Taishaku-do, where a long line of worshippers stood at the Nitenmon entrance. Surprisingly, I quickly reached the front of the Taishakuten and visited the shrine. I drew a fortune slip before returning to the pathway to the shrine just after noon. More visitors have come since I arrived, and the pathway to the shrine was bustling more than before.       

Long lines formed in front of shops selling skewered mugwort dumplings and rice crackers. Since I came a long way to Shibamata, I bought mugwort dumplings at the shop “Toraya” on my way back to the railroad station. I ate as I strolled until I entered the izakaya restaurant “Haru,” once featured on a TV program that explores pubs. I saw no local patrons inside, perhaps due to soaring prices around the New Year that targets tourists. At first, I was the only customer, which made me nervous. However, groups came in afterwards and the restaurant was soon packed to capacity.     
Afterwards, I strolled along the railroad tracks towards Keisei Kanamachi Station in the opposite direction from where I came, enjoying the chilly breeze along the way to sober up. I enjoyed another drink at the Kanamachi Station and headed to Nippori Station, where I enjoyed hot sake at a standing bar in the Yanaka Ginza shopping district before I returned home. I realized during this visit that I should visit other renowned hot spots in Tokyo, a great start to the new year.    

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