On an old recommendation (for what, I can’t remember now, and in fact I only went because I was asked to go), I took a drive to Ochobo (Chiyobo) Inari shrine over toward Ogaki city past Komaki, Iwakura and Ichinomiya yesterday. It’s a shrine for good luck in matters of business, work and jobs, particularly in merchandise and sales.
Shortly after entering the street leading to the shrine, I stopped at a little restaurant run by a former Chunichi Dragons player named Taiho. Having retired from baseball in 2003 to make a job change of his own that’s certainly a labor of love, Taiho-chan is a friendly, down-to-earth chap who’ll cook and bring your order to you, depending on what it is. Above is some handmade rectangular gyoza that needed no dipping, having plenty of its own flavoring. I also had some of his tasty kushi katsu, deep-fried breaded pork on a skewer. It’s a specialty of the area.
Above, farther down the street, protein-rich grasshoppers for sale, with apologies to David Carradine. Along with ayu (sweetfish) and catfish eateries, eel restaurants offering summer stamina dominated the length of the steamy way. It was so hot. It seemed like a bubble of humid heat was trapped in that old-timey strip. One thing I didn’t have a chance to try was the famous pork chashu at a restaurant near Taiho’s. I must mention here, I used an edge blur and color tweak effect to enhance these first three photos. Once in a while it’s appropriate.
Above, the shrine proper. Being an inari shrine, offerings of atsuage, triangular deep-fried tofu sacks on rings of straw, were available for purchase at the entrance. You lay the bag on a large tray, toss a (preferrably five yen) coin into the collection box, and pray for your workplace worries or woes to work out.
Below, accumulated atsuage is scraped off to the left from the offering tray. I guess the fried tofu bags are for scooping up good career karma like the sushi rice they normally hold*, though their fate is ironically less certain (there is a sign saying you’re free to take some for yourself, so maybe it’s not all wasted). Shrinegoers can also place small candles in a case, put their business cards in a rack to solicit divine assistance, and, after donating a coin, lift rocks for perspective on work.
Below, patrons aim to toss coins to have them land on the roof for good job fortune in the central foreground. I can think of at least one business that benefits from all this.
The shrine and the tiny village area around it seem strangely plopped in the middle of relatively large open expanses of rice fields. You wonder how it came to be.
Fields of Dreams, Or Co-oh-oh-oh-oke-lahoma!
Along the way back on east-west route 130 (which turns into route 67), I saw some truly towering lotus plants, high as an elephant’s eye, and very nearby, a patch of hundreds of Coke vending machines sitting inexplicably (like Ochobo Inari itself) in an open field. The bizzarreness just begged mentioning (unfortunately I wasn’t in photo-op mode).
On this road, the entire Inazawa plain area between the Kiso River and Kiyosu, also encompassing Tsushima, verily abounded with plants, shrubs, and trees of all kinds. They’re all raised for sale to local gardeners and landscapers. The soil is fertilized by the nutrient-rich Kiso River.
This week being the peak of the Obon summer vacation season, traffic was patchy, but even what would normally be the evening rush hour didn’t slow me down much.
*Update: The animistic Shinto god of inari shrines is a fox, and foxes have a predilection for atsuage.
Further Update (September 1): Maybe about the time I reached Komaki Airport, Venus was coming out from under the moon’s crescent thumbnail. News of the occultation escaped my attention, but maybe somewhere in the corner of my eye, I fancifully imagine I caught it. I remember seeing my neighbor photographing the crescent moon, but I don’t think that can have been the same day.