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Changing Myths

Obuchi Lab | The University of Tokyo

Studio research project


The project involved researching small shrines tucked away in dense areas of Tokyo, shrines that lie forgotten to the larger crowd of the city. The chosen site is an Inari (Deity of harvest and fertility) shrine tucked between two residential buildings in the Shibuya district of Tokyo. The shrine is approached from the Ebisu Station down an alley, and falls in a blind spot. On an average, it receives fewer than 5 visitors a day.

Poring over old records of the area and maps brought to light a rich history of the shrine, as well stories of a curse surrounding it. The shrine is believed to have been constructed on top of a burial mound dating back 10,000 years. The current structure was built initially the Meiji period (1868-1912), with renovations carried out periodically by local residents. As per local tales, workers building the current Ebisu station in 1906 had vandalized the shrine one night. The next day most of them died in an accident in the construction or were severely injured. This myth surrounding the shrine stops most locals from coming over.

The project questions the nature of myths, with people being in the centre of this question. It explores a nature of architecture that can interact with people coming near the site and partake in a visual storytelling, also having the power to change the story itself.

Project Details

The use of the Torii as a design element is symbolic at this stage. The Torii signifies the threshold between the real world and that of the Gods. For a shrine that is believed to have the Tatari curse on it, could a Torii path have a deeper symbolic meaning?

Drawing inference from the Senbon Torii at Fushimi Inari Taisha, where each Torii has the name of the donor carved on it, the community can have their own imprints in the Torii path by changing the story that changes the significance of the shrine.

The Torii can be rotated to change the lines of the story. This is achieved by using Kumiko, a traditional Japanese joinery detail.

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