The Tomioka Hachimangu shrine, originally built in 1627, was one of
Fukagawa largest attractions in the edo era and possibly part of why
Fukagawa was able to house such a popular geisha district, despite being
unlicensed under the tokugawa shogunate.
The Tomioka shrine is actually one of many shrines dedicated to the Shinto god Hachiman. Although Hachiman is in many regards considered Shinto, it is important to note that since the emergence of Buddhism in Japan in the 8th century Hachiman has been considered a syncretic deity as well, meaning he incorporates elements of both religions. He is revered as the patron god of war and divine protector of Japan, among other things. This serves to make Hachiman one of the most worshipped gods in Japan, second in number of shrines only to the god Inari.
The Tomioka Hachimangu shrine is one of those many dedicated to Hachiman. Although it is by no means the largest or most famous shrine in its group, it is an integral aspect of Fukagawa. Oddly enough, it was even a major reason behind why a red light district and the geisha could prosper in this district, especially since Fukagawa did not have a licensed pleasure quarter. To elaborate, under the edo government, which had very strict laws concerning many aspects of life with prostitution being no exception, Fukagawa was not sanctioned as a pleasure district, and no brothels or related entertainment would be allowed to exist there. During some points in history the law would be enforced and hundreds of young women and girls would be dragged into official quarters such as Yoshiwara where they would be forced to serve for a period, but for the majority of the edo period this law was not actually stringently enforced. Instead, officials claimed that they would be “merciful” in light of the presence of the Hachimangu shrine and allowed business in Fukagawa to prosper. Whether their choice was made purely in the interest of the shrines continued success, as Tomioka Hachimangu was inconveniently located in an area that had few other attractions, or partially to satiate their own desire in a town that was in need of entertainment to accompany its shrine is unknown. Regardless, the tomioka Hachimangu shrine has played a vital role in the rise of Geisha in Fukagawa.
The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. (2012, February 08). Hachiman. Retrieved December 15, 2017, from https://www.britannica.com/topic/Hachiman
Downer, L. (2005). Geisha: the secret history of a vanishing world. London: Headline.