About four years ago I was talking to an older student about strange and interesting shrines in and around Tokyo and he mentioned that there was a kind of secret shrine in Akihabara somewhere but I completely forgot about it and didn’t think anything of it until last year when popular Tokyo-based YouTuber ‘Only In Japan Go‘ did a live stream from this place. You can watch it here. I assume that this is the one my student was on about but you can never be too sure in Japan where there are shrines hidden away in all kinds of places.
Ever since I saw the aforementioned video I have wanted to check out this place and so I recently cycled to Akihabara (and Ueno too) which was the first time I’ve properly cycled through Tokyo since I got knocked off my bike back in February. The shrine is now on google maps so it’s not exactly hidden anymore. It’s located very close to the Don Quixote store, about five minutes away from Akihabara Station. Find the Sadatei Building and just to the left of the shop is the tightest of alleys but it’s certainly not visible until right up close.
It’s called Hanabusa Inari Shrine (Sotokanda 4-4-5, Chiyoda-Ku) and it really wasn’t too much of a surprise that I saw another foreigner there. The film above was actually my third effort as the first attempt was poor and on the second run German YouTuber ‘TheNoobsKanal‘ got in my way!! After squeezing through the initial alley (and I really do mean squeeze!) it does get a tad wider and eventually you come to the tiny shrine on the right which is surrounded by tall buildings on all sides.
Given how grim the lane is, it’s perhaps surprising that the shrine is clean and in good condition so someone must come to check on it every few days. There is an outer gate, a torii gate and two caged stone foxes guarding it all.
Someone had left an offering of aburaage (deep fried tofu) which is the choice of food for foxes. However, it was already a few days past its sell-by-date when I was present!
Now it should be said that if you just walk to the shrine from the opposite side it’s really not that interesting as it’s just a few metres away from the street. Entering from the other side is by far the more adventurous and rewarding route.
The strict ‘On The Fox Trail…’ rules demand that a Foxes top be worn for all posts in this series and on this occasion I was wearing the a polo shirt celebrating our 2-1 League Cup Final victory over Tranmere Rovers at Wembley thanks to a brace from Matt Elliott. Using a selfie stick to get these photos wasn’t so easy due to the restrictions of such a tight passageway.
The third YouTuber to get mentioned in this post is Shiverz (You can watch her video here) and it was she who brought these next two shrines in Akihabara to my attention. Whilst in the area I thought I might as well track them down and I’m glad I did. The first one (below) is a lot more central and is called Kōbu Inari Shrine (Sotokanda 1-9-2, Chiyoda-Ku). With the steps on the front ascending up to it, it’s a little different to the usual ones.
The second one is about 10 minutes on foot from the station and is actually located in the corner of a Sakuma Park (below) which is basically a kids playground. It’s called Kusawake Inari Shrine (Sakumacho 3, Chiyoda-Ku) and features all the usual fox stuff present at most shrines.
The aforementioned ‘Only In Japan’ YouTube channel also alerted me last year to Ramen Cake (below) last year at Sweets Paradise which not only included ramen but a whole host of other dishes including gyoza, tanuki and kitsune; of which the latter has two meanings. One is fox and the other is the name for udon noodles in hot dashi soup topped with aburaage that’s been cooked in a sweet and salty sauce. All of these cakes were really convincing with their appearance making me believe it was the real thing. Only a select amount of each was made for sale each day so I sadly never got to sample any as they were sold out when I enquired. Given the price of them maybe that was some kind of blessing!
You’d have to be quite stupid to mix up the two kitsune definitions but that is exactly what one local place did back in early 2014 with its translation for noodle toppings! This photo (below) appears courtesy of @ALUMII on Twitter!
Back at the Tokyo Fox Global Operations Centre in Itabashi-Ku I later had s0me treats as reward for my hours of cycling and just to basically keep up the fox theme for this feature! These animal biscuit snacks have featured in this series before but there have recently been a few different flavours of them on the market. First up (below) were two small packets of strawberry chocolate ones. There was no fox in the first but thankfully the second one provided me with what I needed to include it in this piece!
The second selection (below) was a box of vegetable flavoured ones. Obviously they were completely healthy and pretty much balanced up the strawberry chocolate coated ones before!!
Click on the links below to read previous ‘On The Fox Trail……’ posts…
Zao Fox Village (Miyagi) Fushimi-Inari Shrine (Kyoto) Oji (Tokyo) Saijo-Inari Shrine (Okayama) Toyokawa Inari Tokyo Betsuin (Tokyo) Osaka Toyokawa Inari (Aichi) Kasama Inari Shrine (Ibaraki) Haneda (Tokyo) Motonosumi Inari Shrine (Yamaguchi) The Tokyo Fox Global Operations Centre The Oji Fox Parade (Tokyo) Keihin Fushimi Inari Shrine (Kanagawa)