Tateishi-sama, meaning “standing stone“ (sama is an honorific for people of a higher rank) in Japanese, is a sort of menhir that is worshipped, and sometimes feared, by the locals. While many of such Tateishi-samas are known throughout Japan, the most notable of these is an extremely obscure one, which can be found in the town named after it.
This Tateishi-sama is located in a children’s park in Tateishi, Katsushika Ward, nestled in a tiny shrine. Made of a kind of tuff called Bōshū-ishi, this stone is believed to have been brought from Mount Nokogiri, or the Saw Mountain in Chiba Prefecture, about 55 miles away from the site, along with the stones used to build the ancient, now mostly lost kofun (tumulus) nearby.
During the Edo period, it reportedly stood over 60 centimeters and was known as a ne’ari-ishi (stone with roots). It was pretty popular back then, mentioned in numerous contemporary books, and there are even legends about digging into its “roots” causing disasters. At this point, the stone also served as a signpost for travelers.
Today, however, the once-revered Tateishi-sama is barely a few centimeters tall, a victim of ground subsidence and repeated cuttings and clippings by the local worshippers who believed that the fragments of the stone had the powers to heal diseases, and, during the Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese wars, that they would serve as bulletproof amulets.
Still, the worship of this itsy-bitsy menhir has not completely died out yet, despite its current size. Even to this day, local people sometimes offer coins and bits of food to the stone and the hokora behind it.
Know Before You Go
The stone is located in Tateishi Children's Playground, within a 10 minutes' walk from either Keisei Tateishi Station or Aoto Station.