10/14/2015

Asakusa

[ . BACK to DARUMA MUSEUM TOP . ]
. Famous Places and Powerspots of Edo 江戸の名所 .
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Asakusa 浅草 district in Edo

The Chinese characters can be read in two ways
asa kusa 浅草 asakusa (Japanese reading)
sen soo, sensō 浅草 senso (Chinese reading)




. Asakusa Kannon 浅草観音 - Temple 浅草寺 Senso-Ji, Asakusadera .
- Introduction -

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- quote -
The Origin of Asakusa
During the Jomon era, Asakusa was under the sea. They say it came over the sea in the Yayoi era.
By the way, what is the place name"Asakusa" based on? According to the historical materials of Tokyo-fu, "the name Asakusa came from little grass, meaning that there was little grass in the area in Musashino region where weeds overrun. Thus the sandy banks of river Sumidagawa were easily ready for construction works and dwellings.
This is the common theory.
When we are requested to tell some story about Asakusa, we will tell about "Sensouji temple".
- source : asakusaimahan.co.jp-

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- quote
What does Asakusa mean? Asakusa (Low Grass)
- snip -
The areas that preserve this place name today are:
浅草 Asakusa -- Asakusa
浅草橋 Asakusabashi -- Asakusa Bridge
西浅草 Nishi-Asakusa -- West Asakusa
元浅草 Moto-Asakusa -- Old Asakusa

However, it should be noted that an 浅草区 Asakusa-ku Asakusa Ward existed from 1878-1947. At that time, the places called Asakusa increased. After 1947, the number of Asakusa place names decreased dramatically until what is today considered is Asakusa is defined by little more than a train station here or there and a few vestigial postal addresses. But some 江戸っ子 Edokko 3rd generation Tōkyōites might consider some nearby neighborhoods as Asakusa, when technically they are not.

The Story So Far
The beginnings are purely mythical. In 628, some brothers were fishing in the 宮戸側川 Miyato-gawa Miyato River[iii] and – surprise, surprise – they caught a statue of 観音 Kan’non the goddess of mercy in their fishing nets[iv]. The brothers enshrined the statue in their home and kept it for private worship. It’s interesting to note, that this year, 628, just happened to be the same year as the death of 推古天皇 Suiko Tennō Empress Suiko, whose reign had seen great encouragement of Buddhism. This time in general is seen as a tipping point for the broader acceptance of Buddhism in Japan.

In 645, having been shared with the local villagers from time to time, the statue was made into a 秘仏 hibutsu, image of Buddha hidden from the public. Then a proper temple was established.

Both dates, 628 and 645, are considered the founding of Asakusa-dera or Sensō-ji (we don’t know which pronunciation was prevalent at the time[v]). Also both dates would still earn it the title of the oldest temple in Edo-Tōkyō. It seems that by 942, the first 雷門 kaminari mon thunder gate[vi] had been established, although in a different location.

From here on out we will see a dichotomy between
Asakusa (the area
) and Sensō-ji (the temple).

Remember, all of this is preserved in the legends and records of the temple itself. There doesn’t seem to be any corroborating evidence elsewhere. In fact, the area isn’t recorded by non-temple sources until around 1266. At that time it is mentioned in a Kamakura Period text called the 吾妻鏡 Azuma Kagami Mirror of the West.

The common understanding is that the temple was founded on a small plateau on the west bank of the Sumida River. A 門前町 monzenchō / monzenmachi[vii] formed around the temple precinct and continued growing from that time. Because of the town’s location on the Sumida River, which was good for trading, the town not only prospered, but attracted the best craftsmen of the region. Temple records indicate thriving trade between the Kamakura area and this region.

Legend has it that when 源頼朝 Minamoto no Yoritomo Minamoto Yoritomo chose Kamakura as his capital (thus establishing the first of the 3 great shōgunates), he couldn’t find sufficiently skilled craftsmen in the area. On one occasion, he camped along the Sumida River near Asakusa. He visited the temple, as one does, and was so impressed with the builders that he hired them to come to Kamakura to build 鶴岡八幡宮 Tsuru-ga-oka Hachiman-gū which is still one of Kamakura’s grandest shrines[viii]. It’s said that trade between Asakusa and Kamakura was so intense that by the time the shōgunate collapsed, many of Kamakura’s merchants and artisans had relocated to Asakusa[ix].

Temple and shrine building wasn’t a big deal in the Sengoku Period, but carpentry and building skills were definitely in demand. It’s not hard to imagine some of the craftsmen of Asakusa being hired to help the Toshima, the Hōjō, the Edo Clan, or even crazy ol’ Ōta Dōkan in their building efforts[x].

Prior to the Edo Period, Asakusa was just a prosperous temple town on the river. But with the coming of the Tokugawa, everything changed. Urban sprawl from nearby by Chiyoda/Edo soon brought the area under the influence of the shōgun’s capital at such an early stage that Edo Period people and modern Tōkyōites generally just considered the area to have been part of Edo since time immemorial – even though for most of its existence, Asakusa was a separate town from the hamlet of Edo.

The temple came under a particularly special patronage by the shōgun family because the head priest of Zōjō-ji had claimed that Asakusa Kan’non was the strongest deity in the Kantō area and that she had served Minamoto Yoritomo well[xi]. Tokugawa Ieyasu believed this deity helped him achieve total victory at the Battle of Sekigahara and as such it received great honors from the shōgunal family. While the temple was endowed by Edo’s most elite, its main mission was catering to the common people – a brilliant PR move on both Ieyasu and the temple’s parts[xii]. The temple has always been important to the commoners of Edo-Tōkyō.

In 1657, after the Meireki Fire[xiii] burned Edo down to the fucking ground, the licensed pleasure quarters called Yoshiwara was relocated from Nihonbashi to the area north of Asakusa because this was just a northern suburb at the time. Remember, we’re only 57 years into the Edo Period, son. Anyways, this transformed the area from just a pilgrimage spot to a proper tourist destination. And not just any old tourist destination; a tourist destination with a happy ending – if you know what I mean.

As lively as the area had become, its fame was only getting greater. In the 1840’s, after some crack downs on unlicensed kabuki theaters[xiv], the three prominent licensed kabuki theaters were forced to relocated to the Asakusa area. The area’s reputation as a center of nightlife was already secured, but adding popular theater to the area guaranteed this legacy for several more generations[xv].

In the Meiji Era, kabuki received imperial patronage and the underground kabuki theaters were as legit as the formerly licensed ones. Soon cinemas opened up in the area which showcased a foreign art form that the Japanese immediately became infatuated with. The area was now a bigger destination than ever; home to one of Tōkyō’s grandest temples and a vibrant theater district. Nearby Yoshiwara was still going off like crazy. Until WWII, Asakusa and Yoshiwara defined nightlife Japanese style.



It should be noted that in the Meiji Period, the temple lands were made into a park, naturally called 浅草公園 Asakusa Kōen Asakusa Park. The area was not unlike modern 上野公園 Ueno Kōen Ueno Park. The centerpiece of the park was Sensō-ji, but the real attractions were the theaters, cinemas, izakaya, and pleasure quarter overflow.
- snip -
What’s the Etymology?
The etymology of Asakusa has been researched by people since the Kamakura Period[xviii] and people have been coming across the same roadblock every time.
浅草寺 Asakusa-dera - 浅草寺 Sensō-ji
Same Kanji, Different Readings

Asakusa-dera is the native Japanese reading. This reading is plainer than the Chinese reading, Sensō-ji.
As most of the major Buddhist teachings came to Japan via China, the Chinese reading would be more prestigious – more in touch with this new foreign and exotic religion.

There are no written records to support this but common sense would lead one to the conclusion that the name Asakusa is the older name – it most likely predates the temple. Once a proper temple was built and Chinese learning was imported, the temple assumed the local name but used the Chinese reading. So 浅草 asa kusa became 浅草 sen sō in the Chinese reading. The village continued to use its native Japanese name.
Today the area is still called Asakusa, even though the temple is called Sensō-ji.
- snip -
- source : Marky Star

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Asakusa Hachiman Jinja 浅草八幡神社 Hachiman Shrines in Asakusa



西浅草八幡神社 Nishi Asakusa Hachiman Jinja
八幡神社は江戸時代当地域にあった田島山誓願寺が宇佐八幡宮の御神霊分神を勧請して元禄13年(1700)に創建された。 昔は田島町といってその氏子区域は、現在の西浅草二丁目の東町会と西町会の2町会のみです。
隣接する北側の芝崎と南側の西浅草一丁目は三社の氏子区域です。
- source, more photos : rekishi-roman.jp -

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. Asakusa Abekawachoo 阿部川町 Abekawacho, Abekawa machi .


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Asakusa Hanakawadochoo 花川戸町 Hanakawado machi

Since the beginning of the Edo period a lot of merchants lived in this area. The main road was the beginning of the Ōshū Kaidō 奥州街道 Oshu Kaido main route leading to Tohoku. It was lined with tea stalls and entertainment etablissements.

hana 花 referes to the cherry blossoms
kawa 川 is the Sumidagawa river and do 戸 refers to the many houses that could be seen from the river among the cherry blossoms.

One famous resident of Hanakawado was
. Banzuin Chobei 幡随院長兵衛 Chobei of Bandzuin . - (1622–1657)
who led of a band of machi-yakko street toughs to fight against injustice.


Kuhonji 光照山九品寺 Kuhon-Ji
台東区花川戸2-11-13 / Kuhon-ji Temple, 2 chome 11-13, Hanakawado

The temple was founded in 1598. During the Great Meireki fire in 1657 a statue of a seated Amida Buddha was erected to pray for the souls of the many dead people. The statue sits on a lotus podestal with engravings of the names of the people who contributed.
- source : asakusanioideyo.com -

- - - - - 九品寺大仏 Daibutsu Great Buddha from Kuhon-Ji

Another famous statue of the temple :
- - - - - . kutsubaki Jizo son 沓履地蔵尊 Jizo Bosatsu wearing shoes .
In Hanakawado there lived many craftsmen making straw sandals and other kinds of shoes (hakimono 履物). Even now there are more than 70 dealers in this district.

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Hanakawado Hakidaore-ichi Shoe Market 花川戸はきだおれ市
Hanakawado wholesale district in Taito-ku
Every year the Hanakawado wholesale district in Taito-ku, assemble up to 40 retailers and wholesalers stalls to line-up around Hanakawado Park to sell a wide-range of products. From footwear to handbags, accessories, leather goods, scarves, hats, and more. All the items at the market are sold at bargain prices.
- source : tokyocheapo.com -

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. Hanakawado no Sukeroku 花川戸助六 - Kabuki Play .
Monument of Sukeroku Inscribed with Ichikawa Danjuro's Poem

Remains of Uba-ga-ike (Ubagaike Pond)
Hanakawado park, 2 chome 4-15, Hanakawado

Ureshi-no-mori Inari
1 chome 15-13, Hanakawado

Yamanoshuku no Watashi Ferry
Sumida park, 1 chome 1, Hanakawado

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Asakusa Heiemonchoo 平右衛門町 Heiemon machi

At the confluence of the rivers Sumidagawa and Kandagawa. It is named after
村田平右衛門守勝 Murata Heiemon Morikatsu.
When Tokugawa Ieyasu came to Edo in 1590, Heiemon came with him from Hamamatsu, Shizuoka. He also followed Ieyasu on the visits to temple Senso-Ji 浅草寺 and was then ordered to built a town here. In 1616 he had finished his own machiya 町家 "town house" and the district was named after him.
Heiemon helped with the official planning of the town of Edo and was involved in the building of bridges too.


source : kiyoto-midori.blog.so-net

The true Edoites called the main road
Asakusa Saemonchoo 浅草左衛門町

Others say it is a pun with right 右 and left 左 of the road from the Asakusa gate toward the river.
- source : city.taito.lg.jp -

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Asakusa Tawarachoo 田原町 Tawara machi, Tawaramachi

This district of former fields (tahara 田原 ) belonged to the compound of Senso-Ji. The fields were turned to human settlements from first to third 丁目 Chome.
It was also called kamisukichoo 紙漉町 Paper Making District / kamisukichoo かみすき丁 / 紙すき町.
The paper made here is the Asakusagami 浅草紙 Paper from Asakusa.
..... the very first Paper factory in Edo tha was here and prosperd from the late 17th Century through the 19th Century.
- source : tokyotaito.blog.shinobi.jp -

. sukikaeshi, suki-kasehi 漉き返し業者 recycled paper from Asakusa .
Asakusagami to hiyakashi

The third Chome of Tawaracho ended in front of the Kaminarimon gate of the temple, so this street was very lively with all kinds of entertainment business.
Asakusa hirokooji 浅草広小路

Chayamachi 茶屋町 -
Residence of . Chaya Shirōjirō 茶屋四郎次郎 Chaya Shirojiro .
. chaya 茶屋 tea shop, tea stall and their side business .

Dakotsu nagaya 蛇骨長屋 (bones of a huge serpent have been found here)
Hettsui yokochoo へっつい横丁 / 竈横丁 (craftsmen making hearths (kamado) lived here)
Tomogire nagaya 朋切長屋 (naming unclear)

Gensui yokocho 源水横丁 (where the famous street performer 松井源水 Matsui Gensui worked)
. kyokugoma, kyoku-goma 曲独楽 acrobatics with spinning tops .
The Matsui Gensui Family history.

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The Nori Seaweed shop of Nakayamaya Heizaemon 中島屋平左衛門
中島屋平左衛門 - - - Nakajimaya Heizaëmon, Nakajima Heiemon or Nakajima Hirazaemon.

- quote -
Advertisement for the Culinary Seaweed Shop of Nakajimaya Heiemon, Official Purveyor to the Tôeizan Temple, at Asakusa Tahara-machi sanchôme, on the North Side (Tôeizan goyô, gozen nori dokoro, Asakusa Tahara-machi sanchôme kitagawa, Nakajimaya Heiemon)
東叡山御用 御膳海苔所 浅草田原町三丁目北側 中島屋平左衛門


by Katsushika Hokusai
- source : mfa.org/collections -


. Asakusa nori 浅草海苔 Seaweed Past and Present - Introduction .

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- - - - - H A I K U and S E N R Y U - - - - -

浅草や一厄おとす寺参り
Asakusa ya hito yaku otosu tera mairi

my dear Asakusa -
to cast off old impurities
I visit the temple


Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶

. yakuotoshi, yaku otoshi 厄落 Casting off the Old Impurities and Sins .


. WKD : Asakusa 浅草 .
- - kigo for all seasons - -

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. densetsu 伝説 Japanese Legends - Introduction .

享和年中、ある田舎人が東京見物に来て、浅草観世音に詣でるなどして過ごした後帰路に着いたところ、土手で泥酔した狂人に斬られた。本人もそう思い失神した。その後、息を吹き返した彼は、懐にしまってあった浅草観世音の影像を見ると、紙に刷ってあった御影が切れていた。これは観世音が身代わりとなったと思われた。
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推古天皇の時代に土師臣中知という人が浅草の地に流れ着き、家臣の檜熊濱成、武成の二人の兄弟とともに漁労を生業としていた。推古天皇の御代の36年3月18日の朝、浅草の沖で網を下ろしていると観音大士の像のみが網にかかった。場所を変えても同じで、驚いてこれを持ち帰り家に安置したが、臭魚の穢に混ざることを恐れて香道を作って安置した。これが浅草観音の縁起という。


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ema 絵馬 votive tablet of a horse

. 狩野元信 Kano Motobonu and 左甚五郎 Hidari Jingoro .
and the stray carved horse on the votive tablet


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hebi 蛇 snake, serpent

浅草御蔵に蛇が出て、米を食い荒らしていた。そこで蛇狩りをしようとしたが、ある者がそれを止めさせた。ある時この男が米倉に閉じこめられた。蔵内には水がなく難渋していたところ、蛇が彼の手ぬぐいをくわえて、どこかで水に浸して帰ってきたという。おかげで男は生き延びたという。
. . . . .
2月ごろには田の真ん中に竹などを立てて、藁を蛇のように編んだものを結びつける。初午稲荷にはわら合子を作って供物を入れる。合子の編み方はこの蛇のようであり、蛇を作って結いつけているのは、蛇をさぐる呪である。

- - - - - daija 大蛇 large serpent
姥ヶ池というところに一軒の家があり、母子が住んでいた。母子は旅人を泊めて殺しては衣裳をはいでいた。浅草観音の力でそのことを妨げられ、母が娘を誤って殺した。その後母は大蛇と化したが供養により守りの神となった。


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henjoo nanji 変成男子

文政2年4月に、神田和泉橋通りに住む善八は、旅の途中に娘が目の前で気絶した。善八が介抱すると目を覚まし、誘拐されて逃げてきたという。善八が彼女を送り帰したところ、恩を忘れぬようにと善八の所持品を所望したので、浅草観世音の御影を与えた。善八が江戸に帰ると妻が出産していたが、子の手にはかの御影が握られていた。聞くと先の娘はそれ以前に病死していたという。観音の慈悲によって男子に生まれた変わったのだろう。


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kitsune 狐 fox

. Yasuzaemon Inari 弥惣左ヱ門稲荷. .
A fox named 熊谷弥惣左ヱ門 Kumagaya Yasuzaemon got caught here in a trap and died.
The shrine was erected in his honor.

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娘がゲンカクの池の傍の稲荷に憑かれた。修験者が狐と問答をした。狐は饅頭を食べたいと言ったので犬のこない所に置き、稲荷へは油と油揚げを供えたら落ちた。修験者は東京浅草で修行した者で、憑き物をよく落としていた。


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koonotori 鸛 stork

文化7年のこと、浅草安部河町にある高田派一向宗の寺の本堂屋根に、鸛が巣をつくっていた。これまでは近くの松平西福寺に巣を作っていたのだが、こちらに移ってきたという。その年12月11日に火事が発生して西福寺は全焼したという。『博聞類纂』という書物には、鸛が巣を移すと古巣は火事になると書かれてあり、これと同じ事が起きたことになる。

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kuchi-ire inari 口入稲荷 Takadaya 高田屋

口入稲荷は新吉原の廓内にあった口入屋高田屋七兵衛の家の稲荷だったが、元禄14年頃霊感により今の浅草玉姫稲荷の境内に移した。嫁入り奉公口など口入に霊験を授けるものとして信仰されている。

. Kuchi-ire Inari shrine 口入稲荷神社 .

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iinuma no tenjin 飯沼の天神 Tenjin from Iinuma in 下総国 Shimosa no kuni

浅草報恩寺は元々下総国飯沼にあった。法然の弟子だった性信が、この寺を建立した年の冬に老翁がやってきて、法話を聞いて感動し、自分は飯沼の天神であることを告げる。そして師のために長く擁護するといった。また禰宜の夢に出て、師恩の為に鯉2匹を備えろと言ったが、禰宜らはそれを怠った。するとその年の祭礼で、大木が折れたり池の鯉も絶えた。これは神怒のとがめと言われた。

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neko 猫 cat - o-neko sama お猫さま

浅草に貧しい家族がおり、野菜を売って生計を立てていたが、老父が病となりよけい貧しくなったので、亭主は飼っていた猫に何とかできないかと愚痴を漏らした。すると猫は昼に姿を見せなくなった。不思議に思った亭主が老父に聞くと、老父は猫が毎夜自分の側に来て、痛いと思う箇所に乗ってくれており、そのおかげでとてもよく眠れるという。実際老父は回復に向かった。
. . .
浅草に貧しい家族がおり、野菜を売って生計を立てていたが、老父が病となりよけい貧しくなったので、亭主は飼っていた猫に何とかできないかと愚痴を漏らした。すると猫は昼に姿を見せなくなった。ただ数日して、夢で猫の置物を買えと言われて、その家に来た人が次々と訪れ、忽ち貧乏から脱したという。人々はその猫の置物をお猫さまと名前を付けて、あつく敬ったという。

marushime no neko 丸〆の猫 from Hanakawado
浅草花川戸の辺に住んでいた老婆が、年老いて他の家に世話になろうとするときに、猫に暇を与えて泣く泣く他家に赴いた。その夜の夢に猫が出てきて、「我かたちを造らしめ祀る時は福徳自在ならしめん」と教えた。そのため老婆はその通りにして祀り、生活の手段を得てもとの家に住み、この猫を作り物を供えて祀るべきことを言いふらし、世に行われるようになった。老婆は今戸焼という猫を作らせて人に貸し、借りた人は心願成就の後には金銀その他の他色々のものを供えて返した。


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Tanaka 田中幸右衛門 Tanaka Koemon

Ushigomeyama 牛込山伏町に住む田中幸右衛門が、浅草の市へ行き、土産に金龍山の餅を買って、田安殿門にさしかかった。するとどこからか幸右衛門の名を呼ぶ声が聞こえたので、驚いてこれかこれかと言って餅を投げて逃げて帰ったという。

. Ushigome 牛込 .

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tanuki 狸 badger and tanukibayashi

明治10年頃、浅草仲見世の大橋某という家に、約半年に渡って毎夜怪異が続いた。何の祟りか判然としなかったが、その昔、大橋家の先祖が伝法院の寺侍だった頃、浅草寺内の竹薮を切り開いたことへの祟りとの噂が高かった。そのため伝法院でこの怪異を封じて庭内に鎮護大神として一社を祀った。後に災難除けとして金属製の狸の像を授与することになった。


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taroo inari 太郎稲荷 the Deity Taro Inari

. Tachibana Sakon 立花左近 and Tokugawa Ieyasu.

Taro Inari Jinja 太郎稲荷神社


柳川藩立花家 Yanagawa han, Tachibana clan - Naka Yashiki 中屋敷

- quote -
..... one of these Edo Yashiki shrines in Tokyo’s Asakusa district, the Taro Inari Jinja (Shrine). This used to be the estate shrine of the Tachibana House of the Yanagawa clan, who ruled southern Fukuoka province on the Island of Kyushu. The estate and the shrine was established here around 1660. This is the only remains of the old estate, even though some of the lots are still in the hands of the original noble family members who seem to be in the hotel business.
..... the Torii, the red gate in front of all shrines and holy places, has actually been incorporated into the neighboring building when it was erected, a torii shaped hole has been made in the building wall itself!
No matter how crowded Tokyo gets, you can’t really ask the Gods to move!
- source : tokyobling.wordpress.com -


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yakujin 疫神 Deities of Illness

嘉永元年の夏より秋にかけ、疫病が大流行した。その頃、浅草辺りの老女が物貰いのような女と道連れになったところ、女が3,4日飯を食べていないので、一飯を振る舞って欲しいと言った。そばをご馳走したところ、女は礼を申し、我は疫神であるが、もし疫病を患ったらすぐにどじょうを食べろ、すると本復すると言って去った。

- - - - - ekibyoo 疫病 epidemy and 第六天神様 Dairokutenjin Sama
There was an epidemi in the village 宝木塚村 with many dead people. The reason was the missing faith in a protecting deity - or so they said. Finally they got a deity from 第六天神社 DairokuTen Jinja Shrine in Asakusa and the epidemy stopped.


. Dairokuten Ma-O 第六天魔王 Big Number Six Heavenly Deity .

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- source : nichibun yokai database -

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. Famous Places and Powerspots of Edo 江戸の名所 .

. - Doing Business in Edo - 商売 - Introduction .

. senryu, senryū 川柳 Senryu poems in Edo .

. densetsu 伝説 Japanese Legends - Introduction .


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