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March 6, 2017
Tokyu Meguro Line
Much of the following information on Okusawa Shrine is taken from a guide to Setagaya-ku shrines published by the Setagaya-ku Shrine General Council (?, Japanese book 27). The shrine's origin is unclear. In 1326 land in what is now Setagaya-ku was given to the Kira samurai clan of Ōshū Province. Between 1555 and 1570 they built a castle on the site, but it turned out to be very short-lived and was pulled down in 1590 as the Kira were on the losing side in the civil war which brought the Tokugawa to power. It seems that along with the construction of the castle, a shrine, the Hachiman Sha, was dedicated as the guardian deity of the eastern Setagaya district. During the mid-Edo period, there was a series of epidemics which caused many fatalities. One night the Hachiman Kami appeared to the village headman in a dream
Earliest mention of: ??
Annual Festival: 4th Saturday and Sunday of September
and advised him that to ward off the epidemics a long rope resembling a snake should be made and paraded round the village: this was done and, sure enough, the epidemics ended.The name Okusawa Jinja was adopted in 1909 when the nearby Koyasu Inari Jinja was merged into the then Hachiman Sha. In 1912 and again in 1970 the main hall was remodelled. 1939 saw the construction of a new stone torii, which replaced a wooden one of the same shape as the famous Itsukushima Jinja.
Just two minutes from Okusawa Station on the other side of Jiyū-dōri. The visually most striking aspect of the shrine is the Daija (huge snake) curled round the torii, and this is the centrepiece of the shrine's annual festival. A new huge snake is made from straw by the shrine parishioners every year on the first Sunday of September. On completion it is stored in the shrine's main building, and the one in storage from the previous year is taken out and draped around the torii. On the second Saturday of September, the newly made giant snake is taken out of storage and ceremonially purified before being paraded round town in the annual festival. After that it is returned to the main hall. The custom of draping the giant snake around the torii was suspended from 1939 to 1957 on the grounds that the new stone torii would give it a cold stomach: more prosaically there was probably a shortage of straw at the time. As of 2007, when the Setagaya Shrine Guide was published, the straw used to make the snake was sourced from Fukushima Prefecture.