Karasumori Shrine in Shimbashi

Honouring the fox god who helped defeat a rebel

By Sleiman Azizi    - 2 min read

One thousand years ago a rebellion was launched against the central government in Kyoto. One Taira no Masakado, taking it upon himself to lead this insurrection, went so far as to announce himself the 'New Emperor' to all who would listen.

Needless to say, this did not go down too well with the government. After Masakado claimed a couple of battle victories, in stepped Fujiwara no Hidesato. A court bureaucrat, Hidesato began his counter against Masakado with a prayer for victory. In his prayers he received a vision of a white fox presenting him with white arrows to aid him in his fight.

The arrows apparently worked and in gratitude Hidesato decided to build a shrine in the fox's honour. But where was he to build it? Hidesato received another vision. This time, the fox told him to build the shrine in a holy place where birds gathered.

Travelling to an area known as Karasumori, the forest of crows, Hidesato found his spot. Known as of the will of heaven, crows were the messengers of the gods and here, where they gathered, would be the perfect place to offer his gratitude to the white fox deity who had helped him achieve victory.

Hidesato's success earnt him the rank of Defender of the North and the governorship of what is now Tochigi Prefecture. A national legend, samurai clans would trace their lineages back to him and he would later become famous for defeating the giant centipede of Mt Mikami in modern-day Shiga Prefecture...

That giant centipede is long gone but unlike the nervous placations emanating from Masakado's shrine, Karasumori Shrine in Tokyo's business district of Shimbashi is a much more pleasant tribute to a Japanese legend.

Getting there

Take the JR Yamanote Line to Shimbashi Station. From the Hibiya Exit or the Karasumori Exit, the shrine is a 3-minute walk. Alternatively, take the Ginza Subway Line or the Toei Asakusa Line to Shimbashi Station. Again, the shrine is about a 2-3 minute walk.

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Sleiman Azizi

Sleiman Azizi @sleiman.azizi

A Japanese Permanent Resident, I drool over proper soba and sushi while Japanese aesthetics ticks all the right boxes for me.With over 100 published articles on Japan as well as 5 English language books written in a traditional Japanese style, I also happen enjoy writing. Funny that...I'm also the Regional Partner for Tokyo, Japan's never ending capital, so if you've anything to say about Tokyo - or Japan in general - don't be shy and contact with me via sleiman.azizi@japantravel.com

Join the discussion

Lynda Hogan 3 weeks ago
I agree with your comment to Elena; the back story of the shrine really does make it come to life and adds so much character.
Sleiman Azizi Author 3 weeks ago
Stories are appealing, right? Especially when they are interesting ones.
Elena Lisina 3 weeks ago
There are so many legends in Japan! I bet each shrine has a story behind and it's interesting.
Elena Lisina 3 weeks ago
Yes, sure!