Near the Senso-ji temple complex in Tokyo’s Asakusa district, there is a monument of granite stones arranged in a semicircle, in front of which there is a metal plate with many hieroglyphs. On top of the slab and on one of the stones sit a pair of bronze doves. This is a Pigeon Monument.
This is a monument to a children’s song that every Japanese knows, and which is called “Poppo dove” or simply “Hatopopo”.
It was written by Kume Higashi (lyrics) and Taki Rentaro (music). Kume Higashi wrote the lyrics of the song while watching children play with pigeons on the grounds of Senso-ji Temple. The monument was erected in 1962.
It is surprising that the monument is located on the territory of the temple complex – somehow the temple does not fit well with a children’s song, even if it is very popular.
Senso-ji (Japanese 浅草寺 – “temple of young, pale grass”), or Asakusadera (Japanese 浅草寺 – “Asakusa temple”) is the oldest in what is now Tokyo. According to legend, it was founded as early as 628, when two fisherman brothers instead of fish pulled a golden statue of the goddess of mercy Kannon out of the river (on this topic, see the monument to the goddess Kannon in Sendai). They brought it to the local headman and he donated his house as a temple. During the shogunal period in the 17th and 19th centuries, Senso-ji was the site of official prayers for the Tokugawa shoguns. During the 2nd World War, the complex was badly damaged by bombing, and the 5-tiered pagoda was especially damaged – there was practically nothing left of it. But by the 1960s, the temple was completely restored down to the smallest detail.
It is even more surprising that this is not the only monument to the song “Khatopopo”! In the homeland of one of the authors – Kume Higashi, in the city of Shingu there is another one, though without pigeons.