押しかけ/Uninvited/Tanaka Shrine

Tanaka is one of the most common family names in Japan. One comes across it on nameplates outside houses, shop signs, and in Japanese textbooks. It is a simple name in its construct. The kanji for Tanaka are 田/ta (rice paddy) and 中/naka (inside). It is said that the name spread from West Japan to rest of the country with rice cultivation.

A shrine in North-Eastern Kyoto is said to house the ancestors of the Tanaka families. Associated with the well-known Shimogamo Shrine, Tanaka Shrine’s roots may go back many centuries.
One saunters in from the convenience store across the street replacing its blinking lights and repetitive sounds (ping-pong ping-pong ping-pong) for… what? An odd, expansive space surrounded by houses, as though it were a private shrine in someone’s backyard – it is dedicated to an entire family after all. And just when things could not get any stranger, a peacock calls. Tanaka Shrine has three peacock residents. The story is that they were presents from a circus.

But somehow, after a while, it is possible to relax into this space. The trees are old and tall. The lanterns give the place light at night. You may feel like you have erroneously entered someone’s garden, which you have not, because Tanaka Shrine is open to the public. But even if you had come uninvited, you can’t help but think that the Tanaka family and their Gods wouldn’t have minded too much.

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