3 Best Yokai Spots in Chofu, Tokyo: Encounter the Supernatural
“GeGeGe No Kitaro” is a yokai manga series with long-established popularity in Japan. Scary sometimes but laughable at other times, every yokai character in the manga series is unique and attractive. In Tokyo, there is a place where you can actually come across such yokai.
The place is Chofu City. While the author of “Kitaro,” Shigeru Mizuki, was born in Tottori Prefecture, not in Tokyo, he spent his later days here in Chofu City, which became his second hometown. Many spots around this city are associated with yokai and keep attracting many tourists including avid yokai fans. Photo: https://www.flickr.com
So what kind of city is Chofu?
Chofu City is located in the Tama Area almost at the center of Tokyo and is accessible from Shinjuku in about 15 minutes by express train. Even being part of metropolitan Tokyo, the city is blessed with rivers, greeneries and other natural resources. Inhabited by many sports lovers, the city also has Ajinomoto Stadium, the home stadium of a football (soccer) club, as well as many other sports facilities. It is also known as a place where many film and movie related businesses gather and often referred to as “the city of film.”
More historically, the area is said be the place where immigrants from Korea first settled in the 7th century and nurtured their own unique culture. Richly blessed with water resources, cloth making using spring water also developed here. That well explains the fact that many of the areas here have names related to “cloth,” including the name of the very city (“fu” in “Chofu” signifies cloth). Related: Edo Komon: The History of Traditional Patterns in Japanese Kimono
The quality water resource also encouraged making of soba noodles and other foods. Jindaiji Temple, which is dedicated to the god of water makes one of the popular tourist spots of the city. It is known to be the birthplace of “Jindaiji Soba,” the popular specialty food from the area. The area around the temple is spotted with dozens of restaurants each serving its own unique taste of Jindaiji Soba.
Now we are taking a look at 3 yokai spots in the city.
Yokai Spot 1: Tenjin Dori Shopping Street
Tenjin Dori Shopping Street is a few minutes’ walk from Chofu Station. Also referred to by the nickname “Kitaro Dori,” the shopping street has several statues of Kitaro’s yokai friends. Come and try to find all of them!
But why are the yokai here? The answer lies in Fudaten Shrine, which is located off the end of the shopping street. In the manga “GeGeGe No Kitaro,” this shrine is actually set as a place where Kitaro resides. As the shopping street substantially serves as the approach to the shrine, it is natural for yokai to find their places to be here.
The shopping street is lined up with 50 new and old businesses including a cafe, bakery, boutique and dental clinic, and makes a perfect place to stroll around for shopping and taking a rest. Make sure to drop by the shopping street whenever you have a chance to visit the city.
Yokai Spot 2: Fudaten Shrine
Though the time of foundation is not clearly known, this old shrine is believed to have already existed as early as the late 4th century. It was originally located near Tama River and was moved to the present location in 1477 after several enormous river floods occurred between 1469 and 1489.
According to a monument on the shrine site, cloth making was one of the main industries in the area. A legend about the shrine’s origin says that, following an oracle from the shrine’s god, people in the area dipped cloth in the water of Tama River and dedicated it to the dynasty. Then the emperor at the time gave the name “Chofu,” which originally meant “tax cloth,” to both the product and the producing area. The shrine is thus a place deeply related to the origin of Chofu City.
Other than the gods of business, sake making, hot springs, and medicine that are enshrined as main gods of the shrine, it later enshrined Michizane Sugawara who was renowned for his studies. This resulted in the shrine attracting many followings by believers in the god of studies and god of calligraphy.
The shrine has a statue of a “sacred cow” on its site. Michizane Sugawara, who was born in the zodiac year of cow is said to have loved and cared for cows. It was so much that, according to a legendary episode about his funeral, the cow pulling a casket in which the body of Michizane was laid was so devastated by his death and kneeled down refusing to move again. The statue at the shrine represents the cow in this episode and is said to bring luck if you caress it.
The calm and relaxing atmosphere of the shrine surrounded by greeneries will surely make you believe that it is a mystic place inhabited by yokai. The shrine also sells oracle slips themed on Kitaro. Why not consult the shrine about your fortune? Related: Omikuji: Drawing and Understanding Your Japanese Fortune
Yokai Spot 3: Kitaro Chaya (Cafe/Shop)
Kitaro Chaya is a cafe with a retro atmosphere located in front of the famous Jindaiji Temple. The cafe opened in October 2003, in a building which was formerly a soba noodle shop and renovated. In front of the cafe, you can find Kitaro and Nezumi Otoko standing as if they are mere pedestrians. The interior of the cafe is also filled with illustrations of popular yokai characters.
The first floor of the cafe has a souvenir shop which is crammed with many Kitaro goods and the works by Mizuki Shigeru on sale. The shop also offers original goods you cannot buy elsewhere, which will definitely make interesting souvenirs.
At the back of the shop section is “Yokai Cafe,” where you can enjoy fun original foods and drinks themed on yokai. This is a very relaxing space perfect for taking a tea break after sightseeing and shopping, surrounded by adorable yokai.
There is a gallery on the second floor which exhibits yokai paintings by Mizuki Shigeru, yokai map and other items.
Here at Kitaro Chaya, you will be able to experience a very unique yokai world. Make sure to include it in your itinerary and enjoy the mystic world of yokai.
As you walk around the City, you can enjoy the murmuring of the river, breezes caressing the tree leaves and various other beauties and blessings of nature and will fully understand how people in this area have loved and protected their land and environment.
In “GeGeGe No Kitaro,” the leading character Kitaro, together with his friends, always struggles to make this world a place where humans, yokai and all other living things can coexist. Punishing bad yokai sometimes, and rebuking arrogant humans who take away the habitats of yokai at other times, Kitaro’s unchanging goal is to protect the place where everybody can live side by side.
As you tour around the yokai spots in the city, you will understand that Chofu has many reasons to be chosen as a offsetting for yokai stories other than the simple fact that the author of Kitaro lived here. Chofu has always been and will be the symbol of coexistence between humans and non-human lives. When you want some change of air from visiting trendy spots downtown, make a little side trip to Chofu and enjoy a different aspect of Tokyo.