Every year in November, at the Temple of Tori (Juzaisan Chokoku-Ji) in Asakusa, Tokyo is a magnificent, open-air market. This fair, called Tori no Ichi, takes place on the Day of the Rooster according to the traditional Chinese calendar, and is often thought of the first celebration in preparation for the New Year. The Day of the Rooster occurs three times in the month of November-- once every 12 days starting at the first or second day of the month. As a result, Tori no Ichi takes place two to three times during the course of November, with the first fair being the largest and most important.
Tori no Ichi has its origins as a modest harvest festival, celebrated by the farmers and common people of a suburb of Edo now called Adachi-ku, Tokyo. Each year during the festival, residents would gather at the Otori shrine and dedicate roosters to the local god, Hanamata Washidaimyojin, for health, good fortune, and good business in the coming year. Roosters were collected in a large pen and then released in front of the temple.
Over time, the event began to garner the attention of local samurai and townspeople and grew from a dedication to a full-on festival with vendors and gambling all taking place outside of the small Otori shrine. An anti-gambling ordinance passed by the local government in 1776 caused the festival to move from Otori shrine to the Temple of Tori in Asakusa where it still takes place today.
Today, Tori no Ichi is set apart by its combination of traditional good luck charms and wares, and modern festival features. Vendors selling typical festival-style food on a stick abound alongside those selling a wider variety of good-luck charms. A popular charm specifically made for Tori no Ichi is the “lucky rake”. Made of highly decorated bamboo, lucky rakes are thought to bring in good luck, prosperity and fortune for the coming year. And, as always, there are traditional lucky foods. These include steamed taro root, called kashira no imo, and a special type of steamed rice cake, known as koganemochi.
Often winding late into the night, Tori no Ichi is an exciting time to experience tradition. The presence of classic gold and silver good luck charms brings the best of the Edo period back into today’s world. The lively festival with its old-fashioned atmosphere works to usher in the closing of the year for all who attend.