The Scrub Brush Shrine


So, I’m trudging back to the bus stop after catching Sankei-en having the Japanese garden equivalent of a bad hair day,* when I spot this odd little shrine tucked between two houses. The altar is a big pitted rock, and it’s covered with…scrub brushes? What is this, the patron kami-sama of cleaning supplies?

Wrong-o! This shrine is the cure for the common cold!

When locals start getting that dreaded scratchy feeling in their throats, they hop over to the Kame-no-ko-tawashi Shrine and borrow one of these little scrubbers from the altar. They take it home, vigorously rub their necks with it, then return it to the shrine, along with a new one exactly like it.

(The reason this shrine is called Kame-no-ko-tawashi is that supposedly the rock was once a giant turtle that turned to stone after being snared in a local fisherman’s net. The scrub brushes are given as offerings because they’re known as “baby turtle scrub brushes” – kame no ko tawashi.)

But hey, the big question is, does it work? Haha, would a pile of multiplying scrub brushes lie?

*The week cherry trees bloom in splendiferous glory is followed by a week of cherry trees covered with shriveled little dishrags mixed with sprouting leaves. Not even the magic wand of Instagram can make cherry-infested parks photo-worthy until the leaves prevail again, so DUH why did I insist on going all the way to Yokohama to find out? (>_<).

If you’d like to visit the Sankei-en garden neighborhood in Yokohama the next time you’re in Tokyo, visit my website, The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had.

And just for fun, here are the eleven strangest shrines in Tokyo, with all the inside scoop on the resident gods’ superpowers

The Last Tea Bowl Thief was chosen as an Editor’s Pick for
Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense on Amazon

For three hundred years, a missing tea bowl passes from one fortune-seeker to the next, changing the lives of all who possess it…read more

“A fascinating mix of history and mystery.” —Booklist

Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Japan, produces the monthly e-magazine Japanagram, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had

Published by Jonelle Patrick

Writes all the Japan things.

2 thoughts on “The Scrub Brush Shrine

  1. Unless there are people cramming those brushes down their throats, I’m not entirely sure they’d work… O_o But that’s why the placebo effect is so powerful, eh?

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