An old woman was crossing the path that led straight to Eitai Street

Old woman crossing the approach to Tomioka Hachimangu Shrine
Shot at Tomioka Hachimangu Shrine in Fukagawa, Tokyo
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In many Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, the main hall and the approach to the main hall are built slightly apart. At Meiji Shrine, you have to make two right-angle turns from the south approach to the main shrine, and atKitano Tenmangu Shrine in Kyoto, the approach to the main shrine and the approach to the main shrine are built at different angles.

There are many theories as to why this is done, some say it makes it difficult to see what is going on inside from the outside and prevents surprise attacks. Personally, however, I prefer the theory that it is to prevent people from having to point their buttocks at the main deity when they leave the shrine grounds if it is built straight.

It is said that when a dog or a cat points its buttocks at you, it is a sign of trust, but that is only in the animal world; in the human world, it is considered disrespectful to point your buttocks at a noble person. In the past, at the opening ceremony of the Diet, after the Emperor read out the Imperial Rescript, the Lower House speaker, who presided over the opening ceremony, had to walk up the stairs on his right foot, receive the Rescript, and then walk down on his left foot without turning his back to the Emperor. He was not allowed to turn his buttocks to the Emperor. This is called "Ushin-taisa".

It is said that Kenji Fukunaga, who became the 63rd Lower House speaker, resigned from his post because he was unable to perform the Ushin-taisa gesture well. It is also said that Sadanori Yamanaka, who served as Minister of Trade and Industry, turned down the post of Speaker because he could not perform the same rightward and leftward manners. That is how guilty it was to turn one's back on the emperor.

The approach to Tomioka Hachimangu Shrine, which I was visiting that day, was surprisingly straight from Eitai-dori to the main shrine. It seems that here they don't care about turning their backs on Hachiman-sama, or Emperor Ojin. As I was looking at the straight path, I saw an old woman slowly crossing the path.


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Shooting Date

Feb 2021

Posted On

August 26, 2021

Modified On

November 10, 2021


Tomioka Hachimangu Shrine, Tokyo


Street Photography





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