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About Tomioka Hachimangu Shrine

Tomioka Hachimangu Shrine is in Fukagawa, Koto Ward which straddles central Tokyo in the east. It is near Monzen-Nakacho Station on the Tozai subway line. Fukagawa has a long and rich cultural history.

The shrine is said to have had its beginnings in 1627 when a prince from Kyoto enshrined a statue of the deity Hachiman on a small island called Eitai-jima near Fukagawa. The local Fukagawa community soon started worshipping this deity. By 1651, it became a major shrine in Edo's shitamachi or merchant's quarters.

The original shrine fronted the ocean, but landfills over the centuries have put the shrine further away from shore. Today, the shrine holds various ceremonies and events including an antique flea market. The Fukagawa Hachiman Festival is its most famous festival held annually. The Hon-matsuri full-scale version held every three years (1996, 1999, 2002, etc.) is most spectacular.

The shrine also has close historical ties to sumo. Sumo has existed in Japan since at least the 8th century, but modern sumo began to take shape only during the Edo Period from the 17th to 19th centuries when it become more organized and professional. It began with fund-raising sumo tournaments (kanjin-zumo) which were held at Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples to raise money for the shrine or temple's building construction and repair.

In 1684, permission was granted for holding fund-raising sumo tourneys on the grounds of the Tomioka Hachimangu Shrine. Sumo tournaments were then held every year at the shrine.

The Edo Period's golden age of sumo was during the time of the 4th yokozuna (grand champion) Tanikaze and 5th yokozuna Onogawa around 1789. Powerful Raiden (who was never promoted to yokozuna) also appeared. The Tomioka Hachimangu Shrine was the venue for their exciting matches. At the time, only two ten-day tournaments were held annually in front of several thousand people. The sumo ring was located at the site of the present primary school next to the shrine.

During the years when tournaments were held at the shrine, professional sumo saw many important developments such as the incorporation of the yokozuna dohyo-iri (ring-entering ceremony), the establishment of the banzuke (sumo wrestler ranking sheet), and the opening of sumo stables. Fukagawa (the area where the shrine is located) in effect became the birthplace of modern sumo.

In 1791, the fund-raising sumo tournaments were moved to Eko-in temple in Ryogoku. In 1833, official sumo tournaments started at Eko-in temple. In 1909, the first and original Kokugikan sumo arena was subsequently built next to the temple. Professional sumo has remained in or near Ryogoku ever since. (Before the current Kokugikan sumo arena was completed in 1985, tournaments were held in nearby Kuramae.)

Although the shrine no longer hosts sumo tournaments, it has maintained close ties to sumo ever since. Koto Ward currently has several sumo stables (Taiho, Kitanoumi, Musashigawa, Kasugayama, Oshiogawa, Ajigawa, and Tomozuna).

There is also Mantoku-in temple (in Eitai 2-chome) which is the burial place of many sumo wrestlers and referees. They include a few generations of stablemasters such as Isenoumi, Sadogatake, Isegahama, and generations of top-rank referees Shikimori Inosuke and Kimura Shonosuke. Many other temples in the ward also have sumo-related graves.

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Last modified: 2004-05-15