Tsuribune Shrine in Kochi, Japan

Make a wish on the fish!

Literally meaning “fishing boat shrine,” Tsuribune Shrine is a little spot located on the grounds of Kochi Hachimangu Shrine, in the city of Kochi. According to legend, a long time ago when fishing boats went out into the bay beyond the Mimase district of Kochi City, there would be huge schools of little whiting fish. One day when fishermen pulled up their nets, among the fish there was a sacred Shinto object, which was enshrined here.

Since that time, it is said that the god of the shrine has the power to cure fevers, and people come from far and wide to pray for relief. It is customary to offer the god some whiting fish, known as kisugo in the local dialect, so the shrine is often affectionately referred to as Kisugo-sama. Don’t worry if you don’t have fresh fish on hand, as there are ema prayer plaques with images of the little fish where you can write down your wishes to the deity. Step inside the shrine, and you will see that the walls are covered with drawings, photos, ema, and even little figures of kisugo fish!

The shrine is particularly busy during the school exam season in Japan, when students (and anxious parents) visit the shrine to pray that no sudden fevers impede their success on the tough tests. However, whiting are not the only critters you can spot at Kochi Hachimangu Shrine. Near the shrine office, you will be greeted by the chirps of cute white zebra finches, and just a couple steps away is a large stone monument carved with a katsuo (bonito), a memorial to all the fish eaten in this bonito-loving region.

Each year a memorial service is held for the souls of the fish, along with services for old knives and chopsticks, which are remembered with stone monuments that flank that for the fish. On a lighter note, be sure to check out all the large ema plaques displayed on the various buildings on shrine grounds. Representing the 12 animals from the Japanese zodiac, there are some charming paintings of a mouse wedding, a baby sitting with a cow, dramatic roosters, and more.

Posted by Contributor