Tateishi shop, Tokyo, Japan.

Tateishi and the Standing Stone Monument

Tateishi alley, Japan.

Tateishi is a quaint neighborhood in Katsushika in Japan’s capital city, Tokyo. The neighborhood is named after a small stone monument called Tateishi-sama and it stands exactly at 8-37 Tateishi. Amidst the busy shopping streets that range from retro to modern, there’s still that vibe of Japan’s bygone era.

Tateishi alley, Japan. | R.Hand

The Higashi-Tateishi or “east Tateishi” neighborhood is like strolling down memory lane with shops that still look like how they did decades ago after World War II, close to the railway station. In the 1980’s, Tateishi housed many family-owned factories that are today small apartment houses. The neighborhood today is known for its dyeing works and doll making industry.

Tateishi-sama or literally “standing stone“, is known all throughout Japan. Sama is an honorific for people with a higher rank and is likened to an erected prehistoric stone, a menhir. The Tateishi-sama is worshipped and sometimes even feared by locals.

Tateishi shop, Tokyo, Japan.

Tateishi shop, Tokyo, Japan. | Scott Lin

One of the most notable standing stone monuments is found in the town of named after the iconic monument.  It is located in a children’s park in the neighborhood nestled in a small shrine. The Tateishi-sama is believed to have been brought some 55 miles away from Mount Nokogiri in Chiba Prefecture. It is made from a kind of tuff known as Bōshū-ishi and the stones used were from the ancient lost kofun located nearby.

A Japanese "standing stone" monument at a temple in Yubari, Japan.

The Tateishi-sama was known as a ne’ari-ishi or “rooted stone”, during the Edo period and stood over 60 centimeters tall. It was a popular stone and is mentioned in many contemporary Japanese books and even folklores that say digging deep into its very bottom can cause great disasters. The famous standing stone also served as a signpost for travelers passing through.

A Japanese “standing stone” monument at a temple in Yubari, Japan. | Stuart Rankin

Today, the Tateishi-sama is only a few centimeters tall due to ground subsidence and repeated cutting and clipping of local worshippers who believe that the fragments of the stone have powers to heal diseases and also serve as protective amulets during the Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese wars. The tiny stone  monument is still worshipped by many locals and coins and bits of food are still seen as offering at the site.