Monday, August 30, 2021

Atago Shrine - a Horse and Hanami Story

In Tokyo proper, ie the one with a mere 13 million people (as opposed to Greater Tokyo with its 30 million), there are precisely 2,782 temples (they're tax exempt so yes, there is a known number) providing the services of your local, friendly, neighborhood monks performing a number of historical duties. And if you visit all the nearly 3,000, remember to take your temple book as evidence of your achievements! One, in the center of the Shitamachi district of Tokyo (literally "Downtown") was, in days gone by, situated, at 26m above sea level, upon the summit of the highest ground around, Atago Hill. That is before the elevator was created.

Atago Jinja boasts multiple shrines to various deity though on the whole with a theme of success and good fortune in various aspects of future life. There is, as well, a pond with some of the meanest looking koi I've ever seen as they climb over each other for the food distributed by the tourists. It is also the location of the 86, near vertical (slightly steeper than El Capitan if you see what I mean), "Steps to Success", a flight of stone stairs that led from the street to the summit. And, to woo the good favor of Shogun Iieyesu, were ridden by a samurai, who gained a blossom branch and fame and fortune. 

The illustrations show the intrepid knight riding directly up the stairs, though physics would suggest it must have been sideways or he would have fallen rather inelegantly back to the foot of the stairs. History records the samurai declared he had achieved his life's desire. Strangely however, it doesn't seem to have made a record of what precisely was going through the horses mind as it precariously tiptoed those 45 minutes all the way down again...


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