Tori no ichi (the Cock Fair) (酉の市)

"Tori no ichi" is an open-market fair held at Otori-jinja Shrines around the country on the Days of the Cock in November every year. In ancient times, it was called Tori no machi. Its other names include Otori-sai and Otori-sama. The tradition of buying lucky charms in Tori no ichi is an annual event unique to the Kanto region.

Otori-jinja Shrines enshrine Yamato Takeru (also called Yamato Takeru no Mikoto, which means Prince Yamato Takeru). He is worshiped as the deity of long-lasting good luck in battle, better fortune, and success in business. In the Kinki region, Otori Taisha Shrine (in Nishi Ward, Sakai City, Osaka Prefecture) is said to be the main shrine. However, it is not clear how it relates to Otori-jinja Shrines throughout the Kanto region.

In the Kanto region, Washinomiya-jinja Shrine (in Washimiya-machi, Kitakatsushika-gun, Saitama Prefecture) is said to be the main shrine of Otori-jinja Shrines. Its enshrined deities are Ame no Hohi no Mikoto, Takehinadori no Mikoto, and Onamuchi no Mikoto. It is said that Yamato Takeru no Mikoto prayed for a victory at this shrine when he went to the east. The traditional belief of 'Tori no hi shojin' (abstinence on Tori no hi [the Days of the Cock]) spread around this shrine. And Otori-sai is held on the first Tori no hi in December.

In the Edo period, Otori-jinja Shrine (which enshrines Otori Daimyojin [the Great Eagle God]) in Hanamata Village, Minami Adachi County, Musashi Province (which is present Hanahata, Adachi Ward, Tokyo) thrived. Its Tori no ichi was called 'Hontori' (the Main Cock). The harvest festival held by the residents of neighboring towns and villages, who worshiped the Otori Daimyojin in Hanamata as ubusuna-gami (the guardian deity of one's birthplace), is said to be the origin of Tori no ichi in Edo. The present enshrined deity of the Otroi-jinja Shrine is Yamato Takeru no Mikoto. He is said to have celebrated a victory at the shrine when he returned from going to the east. It was believed in the Edo period that the principal image of the Otori-jinja Shrine was Shaka (Buddha) standing on the back of an eagle (on the basis of the honji-suijaku-setsu [the theory of original reality and manifested traces, according to which Shinto gods are manifestations of Buddhas] under the concept of shinbutsu-shugo [the syncretism of Shinto and Buddhism]). The Tori no ichi of the Otori-jinja Shrine is believed to have begun during the Oei era at the beginning of the 15th century. The visitors to the shrine prayed for better luck by offering chickens. When the festival was over, they released them in front of Asakusa Kannon Do (the temple dedicated to Kannon in Asakusa) (Senso-ji Temple).

The most prominent Tori no ichi since the late Edo period has been the one held at Otori Daimyojin no Yashiro Shrine in the precincts of Juzaisan Chokoku-ji Temple (which belongs to the Honmon Lineage of the Hokke Sect) in Asakusa (in Senzoku, Taito Ward, Tokyo). In contrast to Tori no ichi in Hanamata, which was called 'Hontori' (the Main Cock) or 'Otori' (the Great Cock), it was called 'Shintori' (the New Cock). At that time, the Otori Daimyojin of Asakusa was also called Myoken Daibosatsu. Then, it was depicted as Myoken Bosatsu standing on the back of an eagle, and set in place in Banjin-do (which was Otori Daimyojin no Yashiro Shrine) in the precincts of Chokoku-ji Temple. On Tori no hi in November, Washi Myoken Daibosatsu was unveiled, and Tori no ichi began to be held on a grand scale. Otori Daimyojin no Yashiro Shrine and Chokoku-ji Temple were also called 'Washi no Miya' (the Eagle Shrine), and 'Tori no Tera' (the Cock Temple). At the first year of the Meiji period, they were separated into Chokoku-ji Temple and Otori-jinja Shrine by the Edict of Separation of Shinto and Buddhism. The present enshrined deities of the Otori-jinja Shrine are Ame no Hiwashi no Mikoto and Yamato Takeru no Mikoto.

Aside from 'Hontori' and 'Shintori,' there was Tori no ichi held in Shosen-ji Temple (Akamon-dera Temple belonging to the Jodo Sect) in Senju, and it was called 'Naka no tori' (the Middle Cock). Each of them was a splendid Tori no ichi. The Otori Daimyojin of Shosen-ji Temple has a form of Shaka Butsu (Sakyamuni Buddha) standing on the back of an eagle. It is believed to have been given by Third Shogun Iemitsu TOKUGAWA. Today, Tori no ichi is not held in Shosen-ji Temple.

Now, shrines and temples all over the Kanto region, including Hanazono-jinja Shrine (in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo), Okunitama-jinja Shrine (in Fuchu City, Tokyo), Ko-jinja Shrine (in Konosu City, Saitama Prefecture), and Jakko-in Temple (in Kiryu City, Gunma Prefecture), enshrine the divided spirit of the enshrined deity of the Otori-jinja Shrine and hold Tori no ichi. Outside the Kanto region, Tori no ichi is held in Daian-ji Temple in Hamamatsu City (in Naka Ward, Hamamatsu City, Shizuoka Prefecture). In the Kinki and Shikoku regions, also the Chukyo area, and so on, 'Ebisu-ko' (a festival honoring Ebisu [the God of Wealth] held for the purpose of praying for good harvests, a good catch of fish, and business success), as seen in Atsuta-jingu Shrine in Nagoya City, is historically the mainstream. However, Tori no ichi is also held exceptionally in Nanatsu-dera Temple in Osu, in addition to Susanoo-jinja Shrine. The custom of selling 'engi-kumade' (gook luck rakes) is seen all over Japan.

Shinto and Buddhism have different explanations about the origin of Tori no ichi.

In Shinto, Tori no ichi has its origin in the fair that was held on the day of Otori-sai. The enshrined deity of Otori-jinja Shrines, Yamato Takeru no Mikoto, prayed for a victory in the eastern expedition at Washinomiya-jinja Shrine. And, he held a victory celebration at Otori-jinja Shrine in Hanahata. In connection with this, Otori-sai is held on Tori no hi in November (or, the first Tori no hi in December in the case of Washinomiya-jinja Shrine), on which Yamato Takeru no Mikoto is believed to have died. According to the biography of Otori-jinja Shrine in Asakusa, Yamato Takeru no Mikoto visited the shrine for thanksgiving on Tori no hi in November, and he leaned a rake, which was used as a weapon, against the pine tree in front of it. On the basis of this anecdote, Otori-sai is held and a rake is considered a lucky charm.

In the Buddhist account (Tori no tera, Chokoku-ji Temple, in Asakusa), Tori no ichi has its origin in the fair that was held on the day, on which Myoken Daibosatsu was unveiled. On Tori no hi in November 1265 (in old lunar calendar), when Nichiren Shonin (High Priest Nichiren), the founder of the Nichiren sect, prayed for the national peace during his stay at the Kobayakawa house (which is present Daihonzan [the chief temple of the sect] Jusen-ji Temple) in Washi no su, Kazusa Province (which is present Mobara City, Chiba Prefecture), the Venus started to shine brightly and Washi Myoken Daibosatsu appeared. Because of this, Washi Myoken Daibosatsu was brought from Jusen-ji Temple to Chokoku-ji Temple in Asakusa to be unveiled on Tori no hi in November since its establishment. Later, in 1771, Washi Myoken Daibosatsu was transferred to Chokoku-ji Temple as kanjo (ceremonial transfer of a divided tutelary deity to a new location), and came to be unveiled on Tori no hi in November (in old lunar calendar).

Actually, the harvest festival by the farmers living near Otori Daimyojin in Hanamata is said to be the origin of Tori no ichi in Edo. Otori Daimyojin was also called Tori Daimyojin. At that time, ujiko (shrine parishioners) abstained from eating chickens, and shake (the Shinto priest and his family serving the shrine on a hereditary basis) did not even eat eggs. The farmers in the surrounding countryside offered live chickens and, when the festival was over, they released them in front of the Kannon-do of Senso-ji Temple. The shrine that worshiped chickens as gods in this way was facing Ayase-gawa River, and thus it was ideal for assembling people and commodities by water transport. For this reason, the fairs on Tori no hi gradually attracted more visitors to the shrine from the city of Edo, and tsuji-tobaku (open-air gambling) was run on a grand scale there in front of the shrine. However, because of the prohibition on tobaku (gambling) issued during the Anei period, the prosperity of Tori no ichi declined.

The crowd shifted instead to the Myoken Bosatsu of Washi no su that was placed in Chokoku-ji Temple in Asakusa. Its Tori no ichi has been the most prosperous fair up to the present date. The existence of Shin Yoshiwara (a new red-light district) on the east side of Otori Daimyojin in Asakusa was also a big factor explaining the success of Asakusa Tori no ichi. Over time, Tori no ichi began to be held throughout Edo. Now, it is held in many temples and shrines in the Kanto region.

In this way, Tori no ichi transformed from the agricultural fair of the neighboring farm villages displaying autumn harvests and practical farming tools into the urban festival, having kazari-kumade (decorative rakes) full of good omens that brought in good fortune and so on as the lucky charms of the fair, as it moved from the countryside to the city of Edo.

Kumade-mamori (rake-shaped amulets) and Engi-kumade
On the days of 'Tori no ichi,' stalls selling 'Engi-kumade' decorated with lucky charms that bring in good fortune such as okame (the face of a plain woman) line up. Kumade-mamori,' small bamboo rakes decorated with the ears of rice and bills, are given by temples and shrines holding the fair. They are nicknamed 'Kakkome' from share (a pun) playing with the words: 'Hakikomu, kakikomu' (sweep in, rake in) good fortune, which is represented by kome (rice). In addition to the rakes, the lucky charms of Tori no ichi included 'To no imo' (head potatos) (which are pronounced in the same manner in Japanese as Chinese potatoes) and 'Kogane-mochi' (gold rice cake) made of awa (millet) from the Edo period. It was believed that To no imo gave you success in life by making you a head because of the letter 'To' (the head) of 'To no imo,' and blessed you with children because of many baby potatoes they bore. On the other hand, Kogane-mochi was said to give you a fortune. However, 'Kirizansho' (rice cake made from a mixture of sugar, powdered Japanese pepper, and rice flour), which began to be sold around the last days of the Tokugawa shogunate, replaced Kogane-mochi and became the lucky charm of the fair up to now. It is said that eating it prevents catching cold in this glacial season.

A rake, which is a typical lucky charm, is said to be also modeled on the claws of an eagle, copying the image of an eagle clutching its prey. And it implies raking in and grabbing fortune and happiness. A rake is bought with a smart and fun exchange of words -- 'katta' which has two different meanings, 'bought' and 'won,' and 'maketa' which likewise has two different meanings, 'reduced' and 'lost' -- with the rake dealer. At the conclusion of a deal, a ceremonial hand-clapping is energetically performed. (Some people consider it 'Iki na kaikata' [a smart way of buying it] to bring down the product price and pay the balance to the seller as 'Goshugi' [a tip].
In most cases, the ceremonial hand-clapping is done when the seller receives the 'Goshugi.'
In short, according to this manner, a fixed sum is paid after all. However, the tip amount is not clearly defined. It can be larger than the balance, or it can be as small as change.
Thus, it is largely up to the intention of the buyer.)
Rakes are to be made bigger every year, and a variety of sizes are available.

San no tori (the third Day of the Cock)
"Tori no hi" is the date that corresponds to 'Tori' (the Cock) in the dating method that applies each of eto (the twelve Chinese zodiac signs) to each day of the year. It repeats every 12 days. Since there are 30 days per month, there can be 2 or 3 Tori no hi in November, depending on the first sign of the month.
Hatsutori (the first Day of the Cock) is called 'Ichi no tori,' the next is 'Ni no tori,' and the third is 'San no tori.'
According to a common saying, many fires break out during the year that has up to 'San no tori.'
The general public is often told to take precautions against fires between November and the end of the year. In addition, most kumade merchants sell engi-kumade with the sticker of 'Hi no yojin' (watch out for fire) in those years.

There were three Days of the Cock in November 2006, as 4th, 16th, and 28th which was up to San no tori. The Days of the Cock were 5th (Wednesday), 17th (Monday), and 29th (Saturday) in November 2008.

[Original Japanese]