Not far from Yodabashi Akiba and a lot of the major locations near Akihabara is Yanagimori Shrine (which means “Willow Forest Shrine”).
The Shinto shrine that is right next to Kanda River was built in the 17th century and is dedicated to the tanuki (a racoon dog). Founded in 1457 by warlord Ota Dokan, the man who is known for designing and building Edo Castle.
I think one who comes to the shrine is always captivated by its two statues featuring the tanuki with huge balls and big stomach.
And as I have written about the kitsune (fox) statues at many shrines in Japan, many may wonder why there is a shrine dedicated to this racoon dog with big nuts.
Well, the history goes as far back in the 17th century when Keishoin, the mother of the fifth shogun, Tokugawa Tsunayoshi. She had a shrine built on the grounds of Edo Castle for Fukuju-inari, the tanuki god and was worshipped by her grandson, Shogun Tokugawa Ienobu.
The shrine was relocated to Akihabara during the Meiji Restoration in 1868 and it was moved to Yanagimori Shrine.
Many women come to this shrine in order to have some of the luck that Keishoin had in life.
While many may laugh, the tanuki has become popular thanks to Super Mario, as one of his costumes that allows him to fly temporarily. But while many people think tanuki’s may be compute and associated with pot belly’s, at least Mario’s tanuki doesn’t feature one with a large scrotum.
But considering that Yanagimori Shrine is in Akihabara, popular for its video games, action figures and otaku merchandise, perhaps this shrine that honors the tanuki makes sense.
If you are in Akihabara and want to see an older shinto shrine, give Yanagimori Shrine a try!