We set out to dispel rumours about the shrine’s mysterious power…but it ends up biting us in the butt.

Recently, our Japanese-language reporter Seiji Nakazawa has been exploring some of Japan’s scariest holy sites, with his less lily-livered mate Butch by his side to hold his hand through the process.

So when news of another shrine with supernatural powers and an unnerving past came to light, Seiji immediately reached for his phone to contact Butch. But then…he stopped himself.

You see, this particular shrine has a reputation for being one of Japan’s big three “breakup” shrines, and it’s said to be the most powerful one in Tokyo. As the name suggests, people go to this shrine when they want to end relationships, so Seiji took a moment to consider whether he should risk his friendship by inviting Butch along for this visit.

▼ After all, he didn’t want to get on the bad side of a man who looks so menacing.

But then he wondered what Butch would have to say about all this. Surely he would scoff at Seiji’s concerns and reprimand him for doubting the strength of their unwavering friendship.

So he picked up his phone again and texted the big man, or “Big Wave” as he’s sometimes known, and their date with destiny was set. Butch, as always, had a plan to calm Seiji’s nerves, so he turned up with a portable stereo on his shoulder, telling our reporter that the power of rap would help them keep those bad feels away.

“Yo yo yo! C’mon, Seiji, let’s go go go!”

This didn’t sound like a good plan at all, and Seiji was now worried that Butch would end up angering the gods with his cocky overconfidence.

Seiji pleaded with him to stop rapping — if you could call it that, because Butch was just stringing poorly rhyming words together at this point — until suddenly, his mohawked companion fell silent and stopped dead in his tracks.

That’s when Seiji turned…and realised they’d arrived at the foreboding shrine. Known as Enoki Inari Shrine, it also goes by the name “Enkiri Enoki“, as “enkiri” means to “cut ties” and “enoki” is “Japanese hackberry“, a type of deciduous tree.

The tree here is particularly important, as this is what’s believed to possess the breakup power. In fact, betrothed couples have avoided passing in front of this tree since the Edo Period (1603-1867), for fear of it ruining their marriage.

While Butch and Seiji had no plans to get married to each other, and they weren’t entirely sure if the towering tree on the site was the actual tree of legend, they still approached it with a sense of solemn deference.

Butch gave an offering and said a prayer…and Seiji hoped his criticism of Butch’s rapping skills earlier wasn’t going to make him the object of any negative wishes.

As he waited for Butch, Seiji spotted a signboard that detailed the history of the site, and he was surprised to find that the ominous-sounding “tie-cutting” it’s famous for isn’t necessarily a negative thing. It’s not bad to end bad relationships, in order to start new and better ones, and it’s not just people you can pray to cut ties with, but bad habits, illness, and bad energies as well.

Despite it being a small shrine, it was incredibly popular with visitors, and Seiji couldn’t help but wonder what they were all praying to cut ties with.

That’s when Seiji noticed that the wooden ema votive tablets usually available at shrines weren’t actually here at the site, as it was completely unstaffed. Instead, they could be purchased from a couple of shops nearby.

▼ One of the businesses selling the ema was the “Chojuan” soba restaurant.

Seiji and Butch went inside to purchase a votive tablet, and found a bunch of photos showing Enkiri Enoki. Apparently, in the Edo period, there was a belief that if the bark of the tree was scraped, decocted, and drunk by the person you wanted to breakup with, the relationship would end. Alternatively, the concoction could also help drinkers abstain from alcohol. 

According to staff at the soba restaurant, there can be a wait at busy times to purchase the votive tablets because they’re sold purely on a volunteer basis, which means they have to give priority to serving diners. They’re happy to help the shrine out with sales, though, and they’re also happy to divulge details about the site to those who are interested.

Seiji and Butch were eager to find out more about the trees on the site, so staff revealed to them that the original tree (seen in the black-and-white photos above) is no longer standing. Pieces of the original tree were saved, however, and they are currently enshrined within the small shrine at the site. They can still be viewed once a year, around the end of April, when the shrine doors are opened to the public for a day.

Right now, a “second-generation” hackberry grows next to the shrine, but staff at the restaurant say it’s a lot smaller than it used to be, as people have been scraping bits off in the middle of the night.

With their knowledge enriched, Butch and Seiji purchased a votive tablet for 1,000 yen (US$8.95) and headed back to the shrine. This wasn’t your usual ema, though, as it came with a special privacy sticker so people can cover their handwritten wish, ensuring your tie-cutting desires, however sinister or innocent they may be, stay between you and the gods.

Butch wrote a little something on the wooden tablet and placed the seal over it before Seiji could take a look at it. He then hung it on the board provided, where the gods would attend to it later on, before turning to Seiji to say…

“My man Enoki! Dude, I feel lighter! Like a weight has been lifted.”

Seiji was puzzled, wondering what his friend could’ve wished to cut ties with that made him feel so light. That’s when Butch turned and…

▼ …walked away from him.

Seiji called out after him, but it was as if Butch couldn’t hear him anymore. Surely, Butch could hear him, though, as Seiji’s voice was now echoing around the street.





“Big Wave?”





Well, it wasn’t as if Seiji hadn’t feared this might happen. He’s been to enough cursed and forbidden sites in Japan by now to know you shouldn’t risk putting your friendship on the line in front of the gods.

Perhaps next time he’ll make it up to Butch by inviting him out to the heart rock that floats in the sea. That is, if Big Wave ever returns his calls…

Shrine information
Enkiri Enoki / 縁切榎
Address: Tokyo-to, Itabashi-ku, Honmachi 18-10

Photos © SoraNews24
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