Like a lot of Shinto shrines in Japan, Tokyo’s Kanda Shrine (also known as Kanda Myojin) has a street leading to its entrance lined with shops and restaurants waiting to serve pious pilgrims and secular sightseers alike. The most eye-catching is a quaint cafe on a corner right next to the shrine’s torii gate called Amanoya.
Amanoya specializes in amazake, a sweet, non-alcoholic version of sake that’s popular with kids and adults alike. The beverage is also purported to have various health benefits, but the irony is that Amanoya, which has been in business for 175 years, wasn’t founded out of a thirst for amazake, but a thirst for blood.
Amanoya means “Amano’s store,” and sure enough, the tale begins with a man named Shinsuke Amano. Shinsuke was a samurai who lived in Miyazu Province, present-day northern Kyoto Prefecture, during the mid-1800s, the latter part of the Edo period.
Shinsuke had a younger brother who was also a swordsman, and who moved to Edo (as Tokyo was called in those days) to enroll in a dojo and improve his skills with the blade. Unfortunately, those dreams of martial arts mastery were cut short when he was cut down by an assassin…