Small Buddhist temple and Shintō shrine of Otanuki-sama at Asakusa, Tōkyō

Otanuki-sama, the Raccoon-dogs

The Raccoon-Dogs of Otanuki-sama Shrine

Otanuki-sama jinja is a small Shintō shrine at the southwest corner of the Sensō-ji complex in Asakusa. It's relatively quiet, especially early in the morning.

Empty street early on a quiet morning outside Otanuki-sama Shrine in Asakusa, Tōkyō
Entrance gate to Otanuki-sama Shrine in Asakusa, Tōkyō

In 1872 a steward of the Sensō-ji temple consulted with that temple's chief priest. According to the story on a sign here, the steward was troubled by some raccoon-dogs that were causing mischief in the garden at Sensō-ji.

Now it's not at all clear what was going on, as raccoon-dogs are mythical creatures.

The chief priest told the steward to show some respect. They aren't just otanuki or raccoon-dogs, they are Otanuki-sami or Sir Raccoon-dog.

The steward set up a shrine where he enshrined the spirit of Otanuki-sami and, voila, no more raccoon-dog problems!

In 1883 that small shrine was moved to its current location and the existing shrine building was constructed. It was rebuilt in 1913. Festival rites are conducted every year on March 17th and 18th.

Interior of Otanuki-sama Shrine in Asakusa, Tōkyō
Interior of Otanuki-sama Shrine in Asakusa, Tōkyō

Otanuki-sama is also known as Chingo-do. He is the deity of protection against fire and theft and a protector of businesses. You often see these statues outside restaurants.

Interior of Otanuki-sama Shrine in Asakusa, Tōkyō

The ablution fountain or chōzubachi uses a hollow in a boulder as a reservoir. The signs have directions for how to clean your hands and mouth to begin a visit.

Interior of Otanuki-sama Shrine in Asakusa, Tōkyō
Bodhisattva with a red bib and scarf in Otanuki-sama Shrine in Asakusa, Tōkyō

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