Getting off at Nezu-Station on the Subway Chiyoda-Line and stepping upthrough No. 1 exist, one can find the Nezu-I-Choume intersection between the Shinobazu-Street and the Kototoi-Street in front. Going for approximately 300 Meters along the Sinobazu-street towards Sendagi area, one can come to a small crossing which is called Nezu-Jinjya-Irikuchi(Entrance of Nezu-Shrine). Turning left at the crossing and further proceeding along an alley for about 140 Meters, one can reach the big Torii- gate of Nezu Shrine on the right side. The Nezu Shrine was originally established in Sendagi area adjacent to Nezu by Yamato-Takeru-No-Mikoto who was a prince of the 12th Emperor named Keikou about 1,900 years ago. The price Yamato-Takeru is a legendary hero because of his heroic exploits.In Edo Period, the shrine was moved from Sendagi area to the current site, Nezu where there used to be the suburban residence of a feudal lord Tsunashige Tokugawa of Kofu domain. When his eldest son, Ienobu Tokugawa was promoted to the 6th Shogun in 1,705, the site was contributed to Nezu Shrine. In 1,706 the construction of shrine buildings was carried out by a number of feudal lords across the country under the auspices of Tokugawa Shogunate. The large scale of the project was called “Tenka-Bushin” which means a big cooperative work by nationwide feudal lords.It was completed in 1,706.
The Nezu Shrine was constructed in the typical architectural style of shrinebuilding called “Gongenzukuri Style”. A worship hall, a votive offering hall and a main hall are constituted as an integral structure and are lined in order from front to rear. It is really amazing that the shrine complex built 313 years ago remains completely in original form. It is praised as the most outstanding work among a number of the shrine buildings with Gongenzukuri Style and designated as an important cultural asset by the nation.

Three deities, “Susanou-No-Mikoto,“Ooyamakui-No-Mikoto” and“Hondawake-No-Mikoto” are being enshrined in the main hall of the shrine.“Susanou-No-Mikoto” is characterized as a symbol of wrathful spirit.He is believed to bless people with vital and creative power and to protect them against disasters by water, fire and diseases. He is also worshipped as a deity of farming.“Ooyamkui-No-Mikoto”is said to be a deity who drives stakes (Kui) into a big mountain (Ooyama). He is adored as a founder of development in industry and cultivation.“Hondawake-No-Mikoto” is enshrined as the deity of victory in battle and of long-lasting success in business.

Passing through the Torii-gate, one can view an azalea garden on the left side which is spreading over a slope of the Mukougaoka Hill. Azalea Festival is held during the period from the middle of April tothe beginning of May every year. Around 3,000 numbers of Azalea shrubs with 100 different species bloom in profusion. Various stalls and stands line up in the shrine ground, selling localfood such as “Takoyaki” (Octopus dumplings), “Yakisoba” (Fried noodle),“Wata-Ame”(Cotton Candy) and so on.Some stands offer games such as shooting galleries, ring toss games, goldfish scooping, fishing for yo-yos in a small pool.There are other stalls, selling seasonal plants and flowers such as Chinese lantern plants, morning glories, azalea shrubs and etc.During the festival the shrine ground is alive with a lot of visitors.
Crossing a holly bridge named “Shinkyou” over a stream which flowsfrom hill side to a pond on the right side, a two-storied vermillion gate named “Romon” shows up in front. It has a half-hip-and-gable roof with fired clay tiles. The whole structure is supported by a number of robust columns.
The upper floor is surrounded by a balustrade. Two guardian deities in warrior’s wear are enshrined at the both sides of the gate on the ground floor.The rafters and decorative supporting brackets under the eaves are beautifully painted with blue, green and yellow. The patterns of a blue cloud with daffodils are depicted on the transoms. The gate shows massive and superb appearance.
Passing through the gate, one can find a building with a stage called “Kaguraden” Hall on the right-hand side. Shinto music and dance are played on the stage during the shrine festival.
On the left-hand side, there is a building with a purification basin where visitors clean their hands and rinse their mouth before praying.
After finishing the purification, one can proceed ahead and face a gate called “Kara-Mon” with hip-and-gable roof through which one can enter the center of shrine ground.The center ground is being surrounded by see-through fences with lattice windows which run in a line from both side of the Kara-Mon Gate.
Going ahead, one can face a worship hall called “Haiden”. There are a votive offering hall and a main hall in order behind the worship hall. These are incorporated into one integral building.The worship hall has a hipped main roof on which an auxiliary arched gable roof is arranged in front and behind it a triangular gable roof are mounted.
The gable boards, rafters, supporting brackets, ornamental beams, transom and pillars under the eaves are colored with vermillion, golden yellow, blue and green. On these portions, various shapes of glittering metal carvings are fitted here and there. Two patterns of blue phoenixes are depicted on the flashing board for waterproofing under the eave.Among these ornaments, gilded and sculptured architraves of lion’s and tapir’s heads are so impressively glittering on the top of main pillars.The fylfot patterns (Swastika) are observed at the end of rafters and, gable and flashing boards. The pattern refers to a happy augury in Buddhism. It shows the syncretistic fusion of Shintoism and Buddhism in Edo Period.In front of the worship hall, one can pray in accordance with the way of Shinto ritual, bowing one’s head two times, clapping hands two and bowing one.
Looking back to the left, one can find a Japanese Torreya tree which is surrounded by a bamboo fence with a large number of votive tablets. It is said to be a sacred tree in which a white snake settles as a messenger of god. It is believed that one’s wish will come true if one pray to the sacred tree.
Passing through the west gate at a see-through fence, one can finda passageway formed by numerous numbers of Torii gates called “a thousand Torii” is stretching in a line on the hillside to “Otome-Inari-Shrine” where fox deity is enshrined. The shrine is provided with a front stage which is projected from the slant of the hill toward the side face of Nezu Shrine. One can look over the whole view of “Gongen-Tsukuri” consisting of the worship hall, the votive offering hall and the main hall on the stage.The passageway leads farther to Komagome-Inari-Shrine where the god named God“Izanagi” and Goddess “Izanami” are worshipped. They are said to be creators (father & mother) of Japanese Island in Japanese mythology.These deities in both shrines are believed to bless prayers with goodluck of marriage.
It is worth visiting the Nezu Shrine which has survived for more than 300 years, keeping the complete original style of “Gongen-Tsukuri” in the quite precinct with 23,500M2, filled with natural beauty such as lush greenery, streams and ponds at the foot of the Mukougaoka Hill.

Area in the vicinity of Nezu-Shrine.

When the construction of the Nezu Shrine started in 1,706, the area was alive with a large number of workers who engaged in the job such as carpenters, artisans, merchants and etc.Several tea houses, eateries, inns and other shops gradually appeared to serve them for their convenience. Some of brothels came out in 1,708.In 1,804, there were about 289 households in the area. Specially brothelsproliferated. The area developed not only as shrine town but also pleasure quarter. For ten-odd years since 1,830 all of brothels were ordered to move to Yoshihara area in Asakusa by Tokugawa Shogunate and they had been operating in the area.However they revived in the Nezu area under Shogunate’s approval at the end of Edo Period. In Meiji Period the area was named “Nezu Yaegaki-Cho” by Meiji government. They had been thriving as well-known pleasure quarter in Tokyo for about 10 years. It is said that around 90 brothels were operating and 574 courtesans engaged in the entertainment.When the Tokyo university was established on the neighborhood MukougaokaHill in around 1,877, the government again ordered them to move to“Susaki” area in current Koto-ward for fear that the pleasure quarter might disturb public discipline in the surround areas. The gay quarterhad completely disappeared from Nezu area in around 1,877.

Nowadays this area has been renamed Nezu. Along the Shinobazu Street the quarter on the Mukougaoka hillside is named Nezu-I-Choume and the opposite on Shinobugaoka hillside is called Nezu-2-Choume.The slant in front of Torii gate of Nezu Shrine is called “S-Ji-Saka” Slant(S-shaped slant) which is climbing up Mukougaoka Hill. It was described by prominent novelists such as Soseki-Natsume and Ougai-Mori in their novels. Going up the slant, one can get to the campus of Tokyo University (Department of agricultural science) on the left side. There is a statue of “Hachi”, faithful dog facing “Dr. Ueno” its master near the main gate ofthe campus.

While going back to the Sinbazu Street from the Torii gate and crossing the street, one can view a townscape of a quarter named “Nezu-2-Choume”.Most of the houses in the quarter stand side by side in small premises at the both sides of narrow alleys with less than 2M width.

The quarter is like a maze with the numerous alleys called “Roji” running among the clustered houses. The houses are mostly made of wood and 2-story buildings. Once stepping in the alley, one might find a scenery of people’s daily life and feel an atmosphere of downtown which one is unable to view on a main street.

About 50 to 60 years ago, kids dashed out of a corner while they were enjoying the hide-and -seek play. In summertime elderly men with a round fan in their hand played Japanese chess game called “Shogi” on outdoor bench in the alley and an elderly woman wearing “Yukata” (Japanese bath robe) was sitting on a chair and enjoying the nice evening breeze after taking a bath. Flavor of meal wafted out of an opened paper sliding door and lattice window of each house. One could catch a glimpse of their daily life in the alley.

At present, every windows and entrance doors of houses are closed up to protect their privacy owing to the spread of air conditioner and fireproof building materials. The houses are being tightly built in premise without clearance. And the alleys are still narrow and utilized for a common open space with the neighborhood as those used to be in the old days. The potted flowers are lined up in front of the house, sticking out of the residents’ premise toward the alley or on the balustrades of each house. Wives stand chattering in the alley while viewing the flowers. They might be enjoying the turn of the seasons. It is observed that the narrowness and tightness in the quarter might open settlers’ hearts to each other in the community.

Getting back to the Shinobazu Street and heading toward Nezu-I-Chome Intersection, there is the Nezu Library on the left side of the street before the intersection.Turning the corner and entering an alley, one can find an old-fashioned household goods shop named “Anpachiya” along the alley. Numerousdaily necessities are displayed to the full to the way side of the shop.Those are bamboo sieves, shopping baskets, tinned hot-water bags,bamboo rakes & brooms, buckets, straw hats, bamboo blinds, reed screens,insect cages, duckboards, flyswatters and so on.

Next to this shop, two thrift shops are selling used household furniture,tea utensils, lacquer wares, dolls, porcelains, kimono clothes and etc..

Farther next, there is a gallery of local painters. The owner of the gallery and his father have been painting the old Japanese-style houses which remain in Yanaka, Nezu, Sendagi, Negishi, Asakusa and other downtown areas. They have been drawing the appearance of the old houses with pen and black ink for two generations. The wainscoted walls, lattice windows, eaves, roofs, balustrades of the houses are so elaborately depicted that one can realize the close-grained texture of wood.

The articles dealt by these three shops and one gallery remind visitors of nostalgic sceneries of people’s daily life in downtown which were usually observed 30 to 90 years ago.

Buddhist Temple “Gyokurinnji”

Returning to the Nezu-I-Chome intersection and forwarding “Zenkouji-Ska” slope for about 200M, there is a Buddhism temple named “Gyokurinn-Ji” on the left side of the street. There stands a main temple building with emerald-green roof, which was erected about 400 years ago and it is said to be the oldest wooden building in the neighborhood. At the right side of the building, a statue of Sumo wrestler is standing. He is Chiyono-Fuji, 58th Yokozuna(Campion) who had won 31 championships in Sumo Tournament. When he was on service, he is called “Wolf” because of his sharp and threatening look.He looks a short-statured for Sumo wrestler but muscular man.On the pedestal stone, he is confidently standing with his legs opened and with a sword in his right hand, wearing a heavy twisted white hemp being decorated with an ornamental apron around his waist. The statue is showing a regal presence of great Yokozuna.

The Chinguapin (Castanopsis) tree grows in the backyard of Gyokurinji temple. It is said to be 600 years old with trunk of 6.3M dia. and 9.6M height. It is designated as a special natural monument by Tokyo Metropolitan Government. The tree has not been opened to the public unfortunately. The Gyokurinji temple owns large property and they rent their surplus lot to 12 neighborhood temples.

A Byway climbing up Shinobugaoka Hill

The Chinguapin (Castanopsis) tree grows in the backyard of Gyokurinji temple. It is said to be 600 years old with trunk of 6.3M dia. and 9.6M height. It is designated as a special natural monument by Tokyo Metropolitan Government. The tree has not been opened to the public unfortunately. The Gyokurinji temple owns large property and they rent their surplus lot to 12 neighborhood temples. 

A Byway climbing up Shinobugaoka Hill

Passing through the gate of Gyokurinji Temple, there is a direct byway leading to the top of Shinobugaoka Hill. It is a narrow alley sandwiched by stone fences and walls of houses. It is climbing up the slant of the hill partly through groves. One has to pass by several crooked corners. On the way one can find an old well with a rusty pump near stone steps and vacant lot with bamboo grove.One might feel uneasy on the way if getting lost. Turing the last corner to the right, one can reach an alley leading to the Kototoi Street.

Foreign Artist’s Atelier in Yanaka
  Turing the last corner to the left and heading ahead on the alley for about 30M, there is a corner of a triangle zone where a large Himalayan cedar tree with exuberant foliage is standing. Taking a turn right at the corner, one can find an atelier of American painter who are specialized in drawing Japanese style pictures. He has been living in Yanka for more than 10 years. The atelier is standing on the right side of the alley.

The site is located near my residence and I often pass by it when I go shopping to Nezu area. There used to be an auto-repair shop. The repair tools and parts were scattered on the alley in front of the site at that time.Around 20 years ago the shop were closed. After that I often saw that the shop was always under renovation and an unfamiliar foreigner was frequently going in and out of the site. I was curiously paying an attention to the site and wondering what type of building came out.In the meanwhile, I got such the news from my familiar carpenter that he was asked by a foreign painter who had recently lived in Yanka to instruct him the way of carpenter’s job. I am remembering that the carpenter was embarrassed by the foreigner’s request since he lost the opportunity to earn his labor charge. Then I came to know that the site would be used as the foreign painter’s atelier.The building had been renovated by him step by step, being provided with a lattice front sliding door, showcases at the both sides of the building, coffered ceilings on which Japanese style pictures are depicted、lattice transom and so on. Thus the building was gradually forming the figure of Japanese style atelier. His challenge for the renovation is worth being admired. He named the atelier “Sanctuary”.Nowadays I observe that not only neighbors but also foreign tourists are visiting his atelier.He was recently featured by mass media a lot. When he gets an order for his work, he interviews the client to understand the favorite and to check the light collecting condition at the exhibition place. And sometimes he shows the work in process to the client to get the satisfaction. That is something like placing an order for tailor-made goods. He sharply grasps the client’ s needs and to deliver his work which enables the client to enjoy it for life long. He is like an artist with an artisan spirit. He is quite different from an egoistic artist.His atelier is open during 13:30 to 16:30 from Monday to Friday and from 15:00 to 16:30 on Saturday.One can observe his works drawn on scroll papers, screens, folding fans,coffered ceilings, paper sliding doors and etc. in the atelier. He elaborately depicts motifs by using shredded gold foils and colorful natural mineral pigments. One might view his work in process in his cabin. Foreign visitors can communicate with him in both Japanese and English.Getting back to the corner with Himalayan cedar tree and turning at the corner to the left,  and going ahead on the alley for about 100 M, one can come out to the top of Zenkouji Saka slant on the Kototoiu Street

Along the street, there are a shop dealing the writing and painting brushes which Pablo Picasso and Joan Miro once bought and two shops selling natural mineral pigments. Going down the slant while dropping by these shops, one can get back to Nezu Station at the Nezu-I-Chome crossing. The Nezu and Yanaka areas seem to be the places which are favored by novelists, artists and artisans.