I was told by some people that there is an interesting shrine in Niigata where people turn komainu (guardian dogs) to make a wish, and I was interested, so I went there.
Minato Inari Shrine (Minato Inari) is located in Chuo-ku, Niigata City. It is in the vicinity of the Niigata City History Museum Minatopia, but is located on a small residential street, and we managed to get there despite getting a little lost.
This Minato Inari Shrine was founded in 1716. The shrine has been around since the Edo period. In the past, ships entering Niigata harbour used to visit the shrine's forests, and the shrine was worshipped by sailors.
Komainu (guardian dogs), visible from just outside the shrine; two (a pair) on either side as you pass through the two torii gates.
It is marked "Wishful thinking Kora-inu" and is the first of Niigata City's folk cultural assets. Women turn to the leftmost komainu when making a wish. Men turn the right guardians.
Female guardian dog with closed mouth.
It seems that if you turn the komainu and pray while keeping your wish in mind, your wish will come true.
Now! To the men's section.
It's heavier than I thought... I'm struggling to turn it with one hand as I'm holding the camera!
I was told later that there is a theory that the weight changes depending on the person who turns it in and on their wishes. I felt it was very heavy, but I don't know if it was because of my wish or my fault... sweat.
I've been working hard and circling the city for a while now!
By the way, for some reason I was turning against the clock. Don't tell anyone that I mistakenly thought the phrase "men should turn the right Korai dog" meant "men should turn the right one". It's an even bigger secret that because I mistakenly thought "men should turn right", I also turned the women's one on the left clockwise.
I later found this on the internet, too, which says: "Turn slowly clockwise with both hands. After turning it round, hold your hand over the head of the Koryo dog and make a wish". I did it in a completely different way...
However, there should be no certainty about any of them, so do what you think is right! I'm sure I'll be fine!
By the way, the origin of the start of this wishful thinking Koryo dog was written on a stone monument.
In summary, "Sailors who came to Niigata would play in the Hanayagi district. The story goes that the prostitutes who played with them were so sorry to leave them that they turned their dogs to the west and prayed that the sea would be so rough that they would not be able to leave the port.
They call this 'stormy weather prayer', but that sounds more like a curse than a wish! It's a curse! I laughed to myself. But it's interesting that it was passed down and everyone started making wishes.
The current, revolving guardian dogs were created in 1995, while their predecessors were kept in the worship hall.
It was dedicated in 1854. More than 150 years ago!
Now, the Minato Inari Shrine here is, as the name suggests, an 'Inari Shrine'.
If so, it is strange that komainu are the focus of attention! Some people might think that this is strange. Inari shrines are more famous for their foxes.
Rest assured. There is a fox at the third torii gate from the entrance to the shrine.
It's rare to see a smiling fox, is it?
He's got a big, soft smile, but...
Well, your paws are tied, aren't they? Eh? This is no time to be smiling, okay?
It is said that a hemp cord with a piece of paper with a wish written on it is tied around the front ankles of the fox, and when the wish is fulfilled, the cord is cut with scissors. It is also said that the strings are tied to the right or left leg of the fox, depending on the person you wish to stop in his tracks.
It must have been a custom born from the 'stormy weather prayer' of the prostitutes who turn the Koryo dogs. Don't go.
But still, wrap it round and round without reservation.
It's kind of a playful shrine, and it's fun for us too.
Such a rather interesting Minato Inari Shrine was also known as Doraku Inari.
It is said to have originated from the fact that prostitutes used it to make wishes, and there was a song that goes 'Doraku inari o me too was cheated two or three times in Shimo no shinchi'. There must have been some amorous games between prostitutes and sailors at this Dorakuinari! I can imagine the sailor saying in frustration, "Damn it, I've been cheated by Ohatsu again!" I can just imagine the sailor's frustration!
I found the place reminiscent of the Furumachi Hanamachi area, which is said to have been glamorous.
Komainu and foxes. The Minato Inari Shrine, where many stories would have happened, is still a unique shrine of some kind. I think it is rare in the whole country. If you happen to be in the neighbourhood, please visit.
By the way, Niigata has the largest number of shrines in Japan. Perhaps that is why these types of shrine have been created.
- Minato Inari Shrine
- Address: 3482 Inari-cho, Chuo-ku, Niigata City.