Think of lions and a safari in Kenya rather than Tama Dobutsukoen Zoo comes to mind. Think of lion statues and Trafalgar Square in London instead of a small Tokyo shrine will probably enter your head first. However, I recently came across an interesting story on the excellent Rurousha blog about how one of the lions made its way from England to this shrine via Ikebukuro!
It’s no surprise to see lion statues as deities in temples or shrines but certainly not the style seen at Mimeguri Jinja Shrine! For one hundred years now the Mitsukoshi Department stores in Japan have featured one of these London-produced lions outside its front doors but when the Ikebukuro branch closed a few years back its lion was donated to this shrine and now sits among the usual things to be found at shrines.
Having searched out the elephant temple in Shinagawa about a year ago it’s fair to say that I like my quirky little temples and shrines I decided to cycle on over to this area lying in the shadow of the towering 634 metre high Tokyo Skytree.
The shrine is not only interesting for the lion but it also possesses a rare three-cornered torii which covers a well near a private family shrine featuring lion-dogs. Three is certainly the magic number at Mimeguri which means “three times around” and derives from a 1300’s legend about a priest who saw a magical white fox go round a recently unearthed statue of an old man on a white fox three times…and after that it disappeared! There is a signboard just outside one of the torii gates detailing this story.
Mimeguri is an Inari shrine and so has a fox shrine and many fox statues as well as a statue of an old man and an old woman that could supposedly communicate with foxes who would act as messengers. The perfect place for this Tokyo Fox if you will!
Just across the Sumida-gawa River this shrine is dedicated to two of the seven gods of fortune associated with the river. These gods relate to wealth, farmers, agriculture, rice, the kitchen, fishermen, workingmen and inevitably good fortune. Quite a lot eh! I was just there to test out my new camera and found more than I expected with an earthquake damaged lantern and discarded foxes among these other delights.
So there you have it, another interesting little place tucked away in the huge metropolis of Tokyo which is proof that there are many hidden delights out there for one to find by just getting out there and taking a look around.
Mimeguri Jinja Shrine can be found at 2-5-17 Mukojima and Tokyo Skytree (formerly Narihirabashi Station) is the closest station on the Tobu Skytree line (formerly Toho Isesaki line)