The Seven Wonders of Honjo

During the Edo period, the area known as Honjo (modern day Sumida ward in Tokyo) was a meloncholy and shadow-haunted place that drew legends about it like a cloak. Vast fields spread about Honjo, with only a few houses scattered here and there, and many a night-traveler would walk far to avoid a trip though those fields at night.

Several of the ghost legends of Honjo were collected together and called the Honjo Nanafushigi (本所七不思議), the Seven Wonders of Honjo. The number seven is purely nominal; as in many places in the world, the number seven carries mystical significance and when you are telling ghost stories the “seven wonders” sounds scarier than the “nine wonders” or “eight wonders.”

Many local places had their own collection of “seven wonders.” They form a typical model of urban legend, passed down through word of mouth, told and retold over kitchen fireplaces, then transitioning from local legend to stage performance.

The Seven Wonders of Honjo moved from the streets of Edo into the halls of Rakugo performers, who took the seven wonders on tour. In the late 1880s Utagawa Kuniteru (歌川国輝) made a series of prints called the “Honjo Nanafushigi.” In 1937, Shinko Kimura filmed “Honjo Nanafushigi” (本所七不思議), which was remade in 1957, as “Ghost Stories of Wanderer at Honjo” (怪談本所七不思議; Kaidan Honjo Nanafushigi) by Katano Goro. The films featured yokai stories and did not really focus on the authentic Seven Wonders.

Today of course, the Seven Wonders of Honjo are largely remembered as tourist attractions.  You can buy special sweets in the shape of the seven wonders, and take walking tours of Sumida where you read all about the seven wonders on helpful tourist maps and plaques.

The Seven Wonders are:

• The “Leave it Behind” Straggler–  置行堀(Oite Kebori)
The Sending-Off Lantern 送り提灯(Okuri Chochin)
The “Following Wooden Clappers” 送り拍子木(Okuri Hyoshigi)
The Unlit Soba Shop  燈無蕎麦 (Akarinashi Soba)
The Foot Washing Mansion 足洗邸 (Ashiarai Yashiki)
The One-sided Reed 片葉の葦 (Kataba no Ashi)
The Chinkapin of Unfallen Leaves 落葉なき椎 (Ochiba Naki Shii)
The Procession of the Tanuki 狸囃子(Tanuki Bayashi)
The Taiko of Tsugaru 津軽の太鼓 (Tsugaru no Taiko)

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9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. huwoniu
    Jan 13, 2012 @ 01:28:14

    Good topic ,thank you for sharing.

    Reply

  2. Zack Davisson
    Jan 13, 2012 @ 10:49:27

    Thanks! This was interesting for me to learn about as well as translate!

    Reply

  3. NG
    May 29, 2012 @ 09:55:48

    Very interesting, I’ll have to visit the Seven Wonders of Honjo during my next trip 🙂

    Reply

  4. Zack Davisson
    May 29, 2012 @ 10:05:52

    Well, they aren’t all there anymore … all you can really see is the signs. But those still make for a cool day trip!

    Reply

  5. russyt
    Sep 26, 2012 @ 03:05:39

    There are seven wonders but nine listed. Which are the ‘original’ stories?

    Reply

  6. Zack Davisson
    Sep 27, 2012 @ 16:14:15

    There are no original. The number seven has mystical significance in Japan, and things often come in sets of seven (even when there are more than seven of them).

    So the “Seven Wonders” just sounds spookier than the “Nine Wonders”

    Reply

    • bokbook
      Sep 28, 2012 @ 01:25:30

      That’s the only thing is it? Good to know. Is that also the case with the seven pilgrims? Maybe there are loads of them really. Post more!

      Reply

  7. Adam
    Jul 06, 2013 @ 03:09:07

    Hi, I’m hoping to visit these sites. Is there a good starting point ie a station in Sumida? Thanks!

    Reply

  8. Trackback: 苟且のセブンワンダー || The Short-Lived Seven Wonders – Releska

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