Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Hamamatsu Toshogu

The first time we visited Hamamatsu Toshogu it was mid-summer, hot and humid.  We parked the car in what was almost a parking spot and walked up the hill.  There was only one other person there - a young guy clutching his tourist history map who stared at us as he wandered around.  As always, I had to remind U to pay our respects to the shrine (tossing a 5 yen coin into the box, ringing the bell, clapping and bowing) before taking pictures.

U was disappointed we weren't able to get our shrine stamp books stamped, so when we were back in Hamamatsu six months later, over new year's, we went back with the hope of finding a priest to sign and stamp our books.

Again we found a slight widening in the road in which to park, and walked a short distance to the shrine.  The difference in the shrine, however, was... well, since it was just past midnight the differences were more than just night and day! The path to the shrine was lined by tables, there was a tent with a gas stove where a few older men were warming their hands against the cold night air, and a group of middle aged women and men stood around a gas ring with a steaming pan of amazake.

U accepted a china cup of the ghastly sweet sake-like (alcohol free) drink and pronounced it delicious.  A beaming man thanked U for the compliment, telling us he ran the sake store just down the hill.  As we chatted with the rather tipsy man U asked him whether the shrine had a regular priest, and if would be possible to get stamps in our books.  We were told to go to the sake store the day after next, and our new friend would help us out.

Two days later we pulled up to the sake store and I was more than a little uncertain - there was a very good chance the friendly owner had been too tipsy to remember the promise.  As soon as we walked into the store, however, we were ushered into the back room.  A quick glance around the room convinced me my worries had been unnecessary.  Just about every free space was littered with scraps of paper covered with brush strokes with the shrine name and date, somebody had been feverishly practicing their brushmanship!

Although I'm not sure that the shrine stamp originally contained a line about a certain type of herb sake being Ieyasu's favourite, the resulting stamp and signature are ones that U and I will treasure and remember for many many years.  And U's family enjoyed the herb sake omiyage we brought them, so I guess Ieyasu had good taste!

Hamamatsu Toshogu 

Look carefully above the hand-washing fount...

Its a nemuri-neko!
(See, Rurousha, I told you it wasn't just at Nikko! sorry I made you wait so long for proof!)


  1. Eeeeh! There's a cat! Look! A very cute cat! :D

    I love the idea that you get shrine stamps at a sake shop. How very appropriate. ^^

    PS: Herb sake? You get urrrb sake? Didn't know that!

    1. It's a rather dusty and faded cat, but quite adorable nonetheless! And lots fewer people to fight with while you enjoy it! (if it hadn't been so hot I would have tried for a better photo.

      The owner of the sake store seemed to be the neighbourhood elder. He said he had "inherited" the shrine's stamps and various other bits and pieces, but it was unclear as to whether it had been in his family or a neighbourhood rescue type of thing. It is really sad to see shrines go into disuse like that, but at least the neighbourhood comes together to clean and take care of the shrine physically as well as marking ceremonies or special occasions such as New Years.

      PS - it was referred to as 「ハーブのお酒」but I didn't try any so I don't know if it was a random type of alcohol or actual 日本酒. But yes, it contained "urrrrrbs"!! :D

    2. So of course yours truly went Googling. Here's a herbal sake that's made from mitsuba or Japanese wild parsley, apparently to be used as a pre-dinner drink.

      I also stumbled across this, which seems to be a sparkling herby alcohol aimed at women? (Must confess, doesn't appeal to me at all.) Am I correct? My Japanese is very iffy.

      Back to the cat. It's interesting that he's above the 手水舎 rather than the shrine itself. Aren't cats scared of water? ^^

    3. I'm on my phone (which won't let me post links, grrrrr!) but I plunked "浜松 家康 酒" into Google-sensei and came up with a Rakuten listing for what looks like the same thing we bought - an aperitif that was apparently loved by Ieyasu (who is said to have loved his food, I read once somewhere that some tie his death to eating too much strange Portugeuse food - ie tempura!

      Your second link, for the bubbly urrrrrb alcohol isn't one I've seen before (and I think it looks vile!) but I think it is a cocktail version of the Chinese urrrrbal drink that they promote as a wonder drug for everything from tiredness to colds to being cold to aging!

      And I think the cat is just a decoration - I couldn't find the sparrow that is supposed to be depicted as the other half of the pair. Probably just a redepiction of popular imagery from Nikko. But I'll check tonight on when it was built as that might give us an idea... But the cat is in the roof, afterall, maybe it jumped up there to stay away from the water?! ;)