Tori no Ichi – the Rake Fair –

“Rake Fair”, The festival of the shrine Otori Jinja held on each “day of the cock” in the month of November. The “day of the cock,” which returns every twelve days, usually comes round twice during November. In the rare years when it returns three times, it is said that there will be many fires that year.

The rake fair is said to have begun as a festival for the deity Otori daimyōjin in Hanahata, Adachi, Tokyo. And there are many Otori jinja branch shrines in and around Tokyo. Among these, the rake fair of the Otori jinja in Asakusa, Tokyo, is especially famous. However, the original rake fair was held in Otori Shrine in Hanahata, Adachi!

At this fair, people presented live birds to the deity and prayed for improved fortune.  The rake fair of Hanahata was once called otori (“great cock”) or hontori (“main cock”) and that of Asakusa was called shintori (“new cock”). Although the Hanamata Otori Shrine was inconvenient for pilgrimages (sankei), because of the gambling games that were held on the day of the festival it was temporarily alive with people. When gambling was forbidden in the Meiji period, the Hanahata rake fair lost many of its visitors, while the Asakusa shintori began attracting new throngs.

At Hanahata Otori Shrine in Adachi, the rake fair “Tori no Ichi” starts at midnight and lasts 24 hours. While the fair goes on for the entire day, the best time to participate is definitely at night, when hundreds of lanterns light up creating a magic atmosphere. The fair opening at midnight is especially popular, with people excitedly waiting in line every year.

On that day bamboo rakes (kumade) decorated with such things as lucky masks (otafuku men), chests of a thousand gold coins (senryobako) and old-fashioned account books (daifukucho), are sold as lucky charms in order to “rake in” good fortunes. Today Otori Myojin is especially venerated by the hotel and restaurant business as a deity for improving one’s fortunes, but originally the god was worshipped by warriors as a tutelary deity of the military arts.

If you’d like to buy a kumade we recommend doing so right before you leave, because it can be tricky to walk through the bustling crowd while holding it. There are so many people! Where do you go first? Well, since the festival is held in the grounds of a temple or shrine, let’s start by paying our respect to the gods with a prayer.

Here’s How You Buy Kumade!

If you attend Tori no Ichi, you can get a kumade for yourself. They come in sizes that range from the palm of your hand to 2 meters (over 6 feet) and in many different shapes. What’s more, there are often no price tags so buying a kumade can be a little overwhelming at first. As a reference, the cheapest kumade start at around 1,000 yen and go up to 10,000-50,000 yen. Sometimes you’ll even see special kumade that cost over ten million yen!

Every year people return their old kumade to the temple or shrine and buy a new one for the year to come. Tradition says that each year you should get a slightly bigger, slightly more expensive rake. The bigger the rake, the more fortune it will bring. That’s why it’s good to start small and cheap. Choose the style you like and don’t be afraid to ask about the price.

One of the distinctive signs of Tori no Ichi is the rhythmic clapping ad cheering that you hear when walking through the kumade stalls. It’s a ritual called tejime. Kumade sellers perform it every time someone buys one of their rakes, to seal the deal and ensure the coming of luck and money.

When going home, make sure you hold your kumade high and facing forward. This way you’ll call for another year of good luck.

Will you visit one of the three Tori no Ichi festivals this year? It’s a great chance to dive into the Japanese culture and bring back a lucky amulet from your trip!