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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, a map is on 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

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Jonelle Patrick View All

Writing mystery books set in Tokyo is mostly what I do, but I also blog about the odd stuff I see every day in Japan. I'm a graduate of Stanford University and the Sendagaya Japanese Institute in Tokyo, and a member of the International Thriller Writers, the Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters In Crime. When I'm not in Tokyo, I live in San Francisco. I also host a travel site called The Tokyo Guide I Wish I'd Had, so if you're headed to Japan and want to check out the places I take my friends when they're in town, take a look!

2 thoughts on “The Scrub Brush Shrine Leave a comment

  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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