"Tracing the history of Haneda:
Fisherman’s town that turned into the gateway to the world"

 Year 2019 is going to end and soon we will be welcoming 2020. However, each country has its own culture and tradition about celebrating the new year. The idea of when to celebrate the new year may be different in some countries, and the date of new year might be different on their calendar. For example, Asian countries such as China and Korea, they splendidly celebrate Chinese New Year according to the lunar calendar, while in Western countries such as Europe and the United States, they focus more on Christmas Holidays and New Year countdown on December 31. As a matter of fact, Japan might be a rare country that takes New Year celebration as a very important event and has tradition to value the first things to do in the new year, such as Hatsuhinode(the first sunrise), Hatsuyume(first dream) and Hatsumōde (first visit to shrine). Celebrating the Japanese New Year may be a good opportunity to learn about Japanese culture and understand the traditional Japanese lifestyle.



 Hatsumōde (first visit to shrine) is one of the most important New Year's customs in Japan. Even though many Japanese people are not so religious, many of them visit shrines and temples for Hatsumode and pray for New Year's wishes. Speaking about Hatsumode, the first thing that comes to mind can be the famous shrines such as the Meiji Jingu Shrine and the Kawasaki Daishi, but do you know that there is a small shrine in Haneda Airport? “Haneda Airport Shrine” is located in a room on the first floor of the Haneda Airport Terminal 1 Building. It is part of the Koku (Airline) Shrine in Shimbashi which was built to pray for the development of the airline industry and the safe travel by air. Although it is an unknown little shrine, if you have free time before departure, you can visit the shrine to wish for a safe flight.
 Haneda Airport Shrine is very convenient to stop by before or after your trip. However, in case you feel that visiting the small shrine inside the airport is not enough, how about taking a step out of Haneda Airport and visit shrines along the Keihin Kyuko line? Even at the small station that you usually pass by, you may find many interesting places when you get off and explore around.

 First, I visited Otorii Station on the Keihin Kyuko Line. After exit the ticket gate, you will see a big intersection of Route 8 and the Industrial Road. After crossing the intersection, walk toward south along the Industrial Road.Then you will soon see a big bridge towering ahead, and in less than 10 minutes’ walk you will arrive at Haneda Shrine. This is a famous shrine among the airline industry staffs, and is said to be also popular among the students, as the Japanese word “Ochinai (not falling down)” has double meaning associated with safe flight as well as success in the exam.
 At this shrine, you can dedicate an Ema (small wooden plaques) with an airplane image on it. Ema hanging on the board were all filled with prayers for safety by airline staffs and prayers of those who seek employment in the airline industry. I was amazed to know that there were so many people wishing for a safe flight and hoping to get an airline job. I was more touched when I found the most heartwarming wish written on one of the Ema saying “May everyone's wish come true” at last.
 As this shrine is known for airline safety prayers, there are various designs for the Amulet (lucky charm) and the Goshuincho (Red Seal stamp book) with airplane motif. You will be surprised to find out that an airplane is also drawn on their Goshuin stamp. I felt like this town is always watching over the people travelling in the sky and supporting them from afar. I gradually got curious about this town and decided to take a walk around to know more about the area.
 Leaving the shrine and go a little further to the South, you will find Tama River flowing in front of you and a large bridge called Daishibashi crossing over it. As you walk across the bridge and look over the upper stream of the river in the middle, you will see flocks of water birds perching on the mud flats. On the other side, you can see the Kosoku Daishibashi (Yokohama Haneda Airport Line Expressway), and the airport building far beyond. Ferry boats crossing around this area were called “Haneda-no-watashi” and were so busy in the Edo period that it was depicted as one of the One Hundred Famous View of Edo by Hiroshige Ando, a famous Ukiyo-e artist. Connecting the surrounding area of Haneda with Kawasaki, “Haneda-no-watashi” has long been used as a means of transportation for customers visiting Kawasaki-Daishi and Anamori-Inari. As Daishibashi Bridge being constructed in 1939, the ferry boats ended their mission, but there are still Yakatabune (Japanese style cruise boat) and fishing boats moored on the river. Standing on the bridge, you can see both aspects of Haneda, which once flourished as a fisherman’s town, and another, which has evolved as a gateway to the sky.



 In the ancient times of Haneda, there was a wide bank of shoals known as a good fishing location for shellfish. Before the war, it was also a popular place for sea bathing and shell fishing. However, as the first international airport in Japan being built in 1931 and gone through the constant expansion since then including the period when it was confiscated by the GHQ after the war, development as an airport town had progressed. Haneda has gradually evolved from a fisherman’s town that connects the towns on both sides of the Tama River into a sky gateway that connects Japan to the world.
 When you are walking back to the Otorii Station, why don't you take another route to explore the area much deeper. As I walked along the back street in the residential area, I found a park on the left. It was huge park, and part of it was designed like a traffic road. There were traffic lights and railroad crossings that look exactly like the real ones that allow children to learn traffic rules while practicing tricycles and bicycles. Furthermore, there was an area called “Garakuta Park” where Steam Locomotive, train vehicles, fire engines, and so on were displayed. There were also playground equipments in the form of a airplane and a boat, and you could really feel that this is a city that has developed as a transportation hub to this day.

  

 After walking around, I came back to Otorii Station and headed for the next station, Anamori-Inari Station. When I walked about 5 minutes after exiting Anamori-Inari Station, I arrived at Anamori-Inari Shrine. Under the blue sky, the big red torii looked especially bright, like a smaller version of Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto. There are 7 main shrines in Haneda area (8 if you include Tamagawa Benzaiten), and during the beginning of the year (New Year's Day to January 5), a special event “Haneda Seven Lucky Inari Tour” would be held. There is a 7 shrines tour course that takes about 2 hours, and you can collect Goshuin stamp from each shrine during the period. Anamori Inari Shrine is the final goal of the course.
 Anamori-Inari Shrine was relocated to its current location because of the expansion of the Haneda airport, but only the great red Torii gate was left in the parking lot of the old terminal for a long time. As accidents subsequently occurred when people tried to remove this great red Torii, they once gave up the removal. According to the further expansionof the airport, the Torii was eventually relocated to the foot of Bentenbashi Bridge and guarding the airport from afar.


 After my small adventure along the Keikyu line, I entered a small cafe in front of Anamori-Inari Station for lunch. The Kakiage tempura with clam rice seemed to be a specialty of this place, and the trace of Fisherman's Town can also be found here. As time goes by, the town appears to have changed a lot, but people's lifestyle might not have changed that much as it has been rooted in a long history and culture. While people look up the sky dreaming of exploring foreign countries, the town might have lost some part of their original bustle in the area. However, there is still a remnant of old life here and there in this quiet town. Overlooking the riverbank from the Daishibashi, there were a lot of reeds and many water birds resting. Time has passed and the town has changed tremendously, but the same Tamagawa has been quietly flowing through the rapidly changing towns as always.


 Haneda Airport is a place that many people come and go from in and out of the country especially during winter holidays. In the meanwhile not so many people pay attention to the small stations of the Keikyu Line they pass by on their way. If you get off at the station, you will find the remnant of good old Japan that is something different from the cutting-edge international airport full of Japan's most advanced technology. If you have some free time at the airport, why not take a step outside to find another attractiveness of Haneda.