The cat shrine of Akasaka

Mikii Inari Jinja (美喜井稲荷神社) is a delightfully obscure shrine that’s hidden between tall buildings in Akasaka. It has a cat statue instead of Inari’s usual foxes, and wooden carvings of a cat playing with a bird and another cat apparently eating a magatama, which symbolizes the human soul. 

Try as I might, I couldn’t find a reliable explanation. I read that there used to be a house that took care of stray cats, but the house burned down. I also read that the owner had a cat called Mikii-chan, but the cat didn’t die in the fire, so after the cat’s death, a shrine was erected.

Let’s not forget this sign at the shrine: この神さまにお願いする方は蛸を召し上がらぬこと。この神さまを信仰される方はなにも心配いりません。Those who pray to this god do not (or shall not; it’s old Japanese) eat octopus. Those who believe in this god don’t have to worry about a damn thing.

I paraphrase with considerable poetic licence, but that’s the gist of it.

It was at this point that I gave up. Octopus? What does octopus have to do with cats?! “Cats!” I muttered to myself. “Who understands cats? It’s pointless. Just worship them.”

PS: I did ascertain that cats should not eat raw seafood, because it can cause a thiamine deficiency, which can cause neurological problems, but I still can’t explain the whence, whither and wherefore of this shrine.


The shrine is so cramped that holes had to be made in the wall to accommodate the roof.
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Kusuo Yasuda House, Sendagi

Excerpt from the house’s brochure: “Located in the quiet Sendagi residential district, the house survived both the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake and the WWII air-raid bombings. The house was built in 1919 for Yoshisaburo Fujita, a connoisseur of traditional architecture. He sold the house in 1923 to Zenshiro Yasuda. When the latter’s son, Kusuo, died in 1992, his widow could not afford the inheritance. She donated it to the Japan National Trust instead.”

A monument to eggs, sushi and shrimp

These monuments to eggs, sushi and shrimp can be found at a shrine called  Namiyoke Inari Jinja (波除稲荷神社), next to Tsukiji Fish Market. The monuments are dedicated to the eggs and sea creatures that sacrificed their lives so that we could eat them. (Yes, definitely “only in Japan”.)

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Here’s the Tamago-zuka (玉子塚) or grave for eggs:

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The photo below is the Sushi-zuka (すし塚) and Ebi-zuka (海老 塚) or grave for shrimp:

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Read more here (E) and here (J).