Tokyobling's Blog

Hachioji Matsuri Dashi Performer

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on September 14, 2014

There are so many festivals taking place in Tokyo this weekend I do not have time to spend on photo editing and blogging! So here are some of my personal favorites from this year’s Hachioji Matsuri, just a few weeks ago. A performer at one of the many dashi (mobile festival stages) are doing his best to entertain near the end of a long three day festival. I love how some of the kids love challenging themselves and get close to the scary performers in masks while some keep their distance.

If you are in Tokyo tonight there are any number of festivals to pick from, not least the one in Shibuya and the one in Akasaka! Have a great long weekend!

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Hikawa Shrine Festival – Akasaka

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on September 13, 2014

There are a lot of festivals going on in Tokyo this weekend, the biggest probably being the one in Shibuya that I posted yesterday, but not far behind is the Hikawa Shrine Matsuri in Tokyo’s central Akasaka (not to be confused with the very similar sounding place name Asakusa). This festival kicked off on Friday evening but I didn’t have time to visit so here are a few photos from my visit to this festival back in 2012, a couple of years ago. I have been to this festival many times and it is always fun, especially to see the large dashi, the mobile shrine platforms as they are pulled and pushed and dragged all around the narrow streets and hills of Akasaka (赤坂, even the name means Red Hill). There are two different dashi and they are used on different days, so depending on when you see them you are bound to see a different one. Dashi connoisseurs (yes there are such people!) can easily tell the difference, but less learned people like me have a bit of a hard time.

A good friend that I met by chance at a festival last weekend let me in on how omikoshi (the mobile shrines carried by parishioners around the neighborhood) are judged in action! I can’t believe I hadn’t gotten this earlier, but apparently people in the know look at the four tassels hanging around the edges of most omikoshi (the ones in this festival are blueish purple): if the tassels swing wildly in rhythm, it means that the omikoshi is moving with cheer and purpose, if they hang straight or just sort of rattle around it means the carriers are running low on energy and the proper spirit. The best way to get the tassels swinging is to cheer the carriers on which usually spurs everyone into action!

If you have time and the opportunity, don’t miss this or any of the many other big festivals this weekend!

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This Weekend – Shibuya Konnohachimangu Matsuri

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places, Uncategorized by tokyobling on September 12, 2014

If you are in Tokyo this weekend and want to experience the fun, music and bustle of a traditional festival you could pick the grand Konnohachimangu Matsuri (渋谷金王八幡宮例大祭) which takes place on both Saturday and Sunday in and around the grand shrine in Shibuya. The festival has everyting: gorgeous and energetic Awaodori at the shrine itself, huge lit paper sculptures of the Nebuta at the Center Gai, omikoshi careening all over Shibuya, folk singing and tons of other events. Even rowing gangs of taiko drummer and impromptu karaoke contests!

There are also plenty of other festivals taking place this weekend like the Hikawa Shrine Matsuri which starts tonight in Akaska, or the Ark Hills Autumn festival also in Akasaka, or the Ikebukuro Brazilian festival, or the Sakurashinmachi Nebuta festival tomorrow.

These photos from all around the festival area is from last year’s festival. Shibuya is an interesting place and packed with people even on normal days, add the weekend shoppers, the foreign tourists and a full on traditional festival and you get a very interesting mix of people and purposes! The three day long weekend means that many festivals carry on until Monday the 15th, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to visit as many festivals as you want!

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Onnamikoshi – Kitazawahachiman Matsuri

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on September 9, 2014

I spent last weekend in Tokyo’s Setagaya ward and the Shimokitazawa district to enjoy and take part in the grand Kitazawahachiman Matsuri, an autumn festival for all the neighborhoods in the parish. One of the highlights of the festival is always the moment when all the neighborhood omikoshi (portable shrines carrying the kami, or god-spirit), gather at the shrine to pay their respects. One neighborhood fields two different omikoshi, one regular for the neighborhood and one unusual Onnamikoshi, or an omikoshi only for women! For natural reasons these are very popular but few neighborhoods have the resources to field two omikoshi, so they either limit the regular omikoshi to men or mix it up both for men and women. Carrying an omikoshi is definitively a team effort, but the things that make some members of the team strong independently makes them weaker in the team, and the omikoshi often serves as a subtle reminder of this.

The Kitazawahachimangu (北澤八幡宮) is located on the top of a hill and the omikoshi has to be carried up some quite steep stairs. Usually the neighborhoods have one or more (sometimes dozens) of lantern carriers, usually the young women of the neighborhood, after which comes the omikoshi directed by the more experienced members of the group using fans and whistles to signal both visually and audibly to the people carrying the omikoshi. It is impossible for any one single person to direct the omikoshi and sometimes they get stuck, move in the wrong direction or lurch dangerously to the side despite the best effort or dozens of team members. It is a remarkable thing to watch!

Other shrines or festivals that are famous for having at least one onnamikoshi are the Yasukuni shrine and the Sanja Matsuri in Asakusa. More photos from this fantastic festival to come!

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