In 1804, Hyakkaen, the site of birth of the Sumidagawa Seven Gods of Fortune, was opened by Sahara Kikuu, who came from Sendai City, Miyagi. It is said the name Hyakkaen (One Hundred Flowers Garden) was thought out by Sakai Hoitsu. It means the garden’s main flower “ume (Japanese plum) blossom” starts to bloom ahead of other one hundred flowers.

 

After becoming rich by dealing in antiques in Nihonbashi, Osaka, Sahara Kiku retired from the profession and moved to Terajima Village, Tokyo. He purchased the land that used to be "Lord Taga's Mansion" and planted there three hundred and sixty plum trees that were presented by cultured people on good terms with him such as Ota Nanpo (Ota Shokusanjin), Kameda Hosai, Tani Buncho, Okubo Shibutsu, and Kato Chikage, and the garden was named Umeen (Plum Garden). It was also called Shin Ume Yashiki (New Plum Mansion) named after Ume Yashiki in Kameido, Tokyo. Other kinds of flowers and blossoms, mainly autumn flowers, had been planted more and more there, and it became one of the most popular sightseeing spots for the people in Edo.

 

It was the Bunka/Bunsei era (1804-1830), in which the culture of common people in Edo was blooming the best, and they came there to commune with flowers, drink tea, and enjoy making Sumidayaki pottery, a type of raku ware (hand-molded earthenware). The 11th shogun Tokugawa Ienari heard this reputation and visited the garden himself.

 

During the Meiji period, the garden was temporarily ruined by flood, but the view was conserved as much as possible by the efforts of Ogura Tsunekichi, who was the president of Ogura Oil Corporation and had a villa nearby in Terajima Village. Donated to the City of Tokyo in 1938, the whole garden was burnt down by the air raids during the Pacific War. In 1949, however, it was rebuilt to be what we can see now by Tokyo Metropolitan Government. Although most of the famous gardens in Tokyo are the mansions belonging to "daimyo" (feudal lords), Hyakkaen Garden is uniquely featured by common people's refined culture that came from the essence of Mukojima and Sumidagawa people. In 1976, it was designated as one of the National Historic Relics / Sites of Scenic Beauty.

 

Going through the gate that hangs the tasteful signboard of "Hana Yashiki (Flower Mansion)" written by Ota Shokusanjin, you can find everywhere a lot of poetry stone monuments such as Kameda Bosai's "Sumida Baisoki" monument.

 

Tasteful events are held there such as the distribution of "haru no nanakusa kago (basket of spring grasses)", the insect listening party in August and the moon-viewing party in autumn.

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Fukurokuju is a god represented with a long head and a shortened body, and has his origins in China. He is the incarnation of the Southern Polestar, a star which was believed to control fortune.

 

There is such a story in an old book called "Fuzokuki":

During the Song dynasty in China, there was a short old man with long whiskers and an elongated head. He told people their fortune. He drank a lot spending the money he earned by fortune telling and often said "I'm a sacred man who gives you fortune." This was rumored in the imperial court and finally the emperor called him out. When the emperor asked "how old are you?” he replied "I'm from south. I can't talk well without drinking alcohol."

 

Then, the emperor gave him alcohol, and the old man began to talk. "I have seen the Yellow River become clear several times." he said. China's largest river, the Yellow River is always muddy, and is said to become clear once in a thousand years. When the emperor thought the old man was extremely long-lived, he suddenly disappeared.

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