Until about 350 years ago, what is now Tsukiji was still part of the ocean. In 1603 Tokugawa Ieyasu took up residence in Edo Castle; the Keichō-Edo-ezu, published in 1608, has an accurately scaled map of the castle showing the evening tide coming in as far as the Hibiya moat and the presence of a shipping office on the Yaesu coastline. Work on the castle, which had begun before the Tokugawa’s entered the city, continued thereafter, and the excavated soil was used in a land reclamation project to the southeast of Edo. This work continued until the Great Fire of Meireki, which destroyed over half of the city in March 1657. By that time the reclamation work had reached what is now Tsukiji, but in the face of rough seas which saw levees destroyed as quickly as they were built that proved to be the practical limit and work stopped. One night, probably in 1659, what looked like a
(Note: numbers in parentheses after kami names
refer to position in How Many Kami table)
From Merged Shrines
Earliest mention of: 1659
Annual Festival: Nearest weekend to June 10th
cloud of light was seen to be hanging over the sea and the curious inhabitants took a boat out to see what it was. It turned out to be a splendid shintai of Inari Ōkami and on returning to land the people immediately built a shrine on what is now the site of Namiyoke Inari and held a lavish festival. Thereupon the fierce wind and waves which had caused the reclamation work to stop subsided and the original goal of the land reclamation work was achieved. This is the origin of the shrine's name, nami, 波, means wave, yoke, 除, avert, eliminate.
Situated as closely as it is to the Tsukiji fish market, this shrine is sometimes overrun by tourists, even though it is not that visually exciting. That said, it is fascinating in its own way, and does have its visual aspects, primarily the pair of lion masks (shishigashira) which are the focal point of the shrine's annual festival in June. These were originally made in 1848, and have survived to the present day because when fires were raging they were out being repaired at different places. The one to the left below is known as the red lion mask and is housed in an auxiliary shrine, the Benzaiten-sha. It was last repaired in 2002. The one to the right below is known as the black lion mask and was last repaired in 1990. It is housed in the appropriately named Shishiden (獅子殿, Lion Hall). Other colourful items are the Shichifukujin Hall (七福神殿), and the O-Kitsune-sama Hokora (おきつね様祠, Foxes small shrine). Not colourful, but to me very interesting, are the stone monuments lining the left wall of the shrine on passing through the torii. Six of these are dedicated to fish: clam, live fish and shellfish, goosefish, prawn, sushi, kelp, and one to the egg. Another one is dedicated to the private company, Yoshinoya. Photos of four of them are here. The pièces de résistance, however, are surely the carvings representing the twelve signs of the zodiac (Jūnishi, 十二支).
(Click on images to expand them)