Ōedo Line: Monzen-Nakachō


(corruption of “town at the gate of the shrine/temple”)


Monzen-Nakachō, known locally as Mon’naka, is the area around 富岡八幡宮 Tomioka Hachiman-gū Tomioka Grand Shrine. Wherever large temples or shrines were built, local economies developed to cater to the local parishioners and pilgrims. This was especially true on big highways[i]. Major shrines, called 大社 taisha, often employed a large number of staff as did large temples. They needed places to buy things quickly, so the towns that developed outside of their gates, called 門前町 monzen-chō “towns in front of the gate,” popped up to provide to the needs of the shrines/temples and the parishioners and pilgrims that came to these religious sites. Tomioka Hachiman-gū was no exception.

2 sumō wrestlers visit Tomioka Hachiman-gū on New Year's Day
2 sumō wrestlers visit Tomioka Hachiman-gū on New Year’s Day

The shrine has a profound ritual connection to the sport of 相撲 sumō as many say the standardization of sumō began here in the Edo Period and therefore it is the origin of professional sumō. I don’t know if this is the case or not, but the shrine itself is an amazing spot to visit. From 1868 to today, the shrine has been hosting many ritual events connected to the various 相撲部屋 sumō beya sumō stables in Tōkyō – and indeed all of Japan.

This shrine is considered the best place to begin the 七福神巡り Shichi Fukujin Meguri Pilgrimage of the 7 Gods of Good Luck of Fukagawa[ii]. I agree. If you start here and walk at a brisk pace, you can finish the pilgrimage in 2 hours.

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This article is part of an ongoing series that starts here.

[i] Conversely, shrines and temples often moved to take advantage of the highways to increase their revenues.
[ii] Fukagawa 7 gods of good luck.

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