After long trip, Nihonbashi shrine returns

After long trip, Nihonbashi shrine returns
Chiaki Maki, right, chief priest of Fukutoku Shrine, and Ryo Shibata, representative of the parishioners, chat next to the torii gate of the shrine in Chuo Ward, Tokyo.

An ancient shrine that was visited by shoguns in the Edo period (1603-1867) but more recently has been relocated time and again due to earthquake, war and redevelopment reopened to the public in the Nihonbashi district of Tokyo on Friday.

Fukutoku Shrine - which has a history of more than 1,100 years in Nihonbashi, the nation's symbolic commercial district, and was once placed on the roof of a building and nicknamed "samayoeru jinja," or "drifting shrine" - is now aiming to build new human relationships in the business district.

"We moved it onto a roof because of financial difficulties, so having a new shrine hall on the ground again is like a dream," said Ryo Shibata, 91, who has served as the representative of the shrine's parishioners for about 40 years.

Shibata's grandfather founded a dye wholesaler in Nihonbashi in the early Meiji era (1868-1912). Shibata took over the family business after World War II, and has kept his legal residency in the district even after moving to Ota Ward.

Early postwar Nihonbashi was an area with small shops that had been around since the Edo period selling dry goods, dye, chemicals and other products.

The shrine had a grove where residents and local business owners would gather for lively festivals.

Shibata said he never forgot to pray at the shrine before concluding an important deal.

But during a period of rapid economic growth, the Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway was built overhead and large buildings were erected one after another, completely changing the face of the district .

The number of residents declined sharply and the shrine had trouble raising money for festivals.

In 1973, the shrine, which had a compound of about 1,000 square meters in the early Edo period, moved to the roof of a building and made ends meet by renting out the first-floor parking lot and offices on the second floor.

The chief priest also began dividing his duties between Fukutoku and another shrine.

When the building was torn down, the shrine moved to a temporary home in a nearby teahouse, and until the new location was completed sat on a 1.5-square-meter corner of that building's lot.

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