The annual festival at the Tomioka Hachimangu is a grand event on normal years, but once every third year the festival goes into hyper mode and grows much larger than usual. The 2014 Fukagawa Hachiman Festival was one of these special years and the rituals and celebrations were massive. I could only visit one of the evenings and one of the days but it must have been great. The festival is also known as the water splashing festival and the streets of the processions are lined with shopkeepers and even local fire departments at the ready to soak the participants!
Tonight is the second night of the annual Mitaka Awaodori festival in Tokyo’s western Mitaka City (三鷹市). It start at 1800 but there is usually a couple of performances earlier in the day as well. Right now is just about the perfect timing for a festival, the weather is unbelievably cool for being Tokyo in August so you won’t have to sweat it out as much as usual! I was at the festival last night and it was as fun as usual. The crowds are thickest closer to the station so just keep walking and it will thin out a little at the end of the festival area. I saw my old favorites the Mitakaren (みたか連), and two new favorites for this year, Bikkuriren (びっくり連) and Fudouren (富道連) whom I have somehow missed all these years. I also saw Sakuraren who were just as good as always!
Mitaka city is easily accessible on the JR Chuo line, and the festival is near the south exit of the station. Enjoy!
Last weekend was the high point of the year for all Awaodori fans in and around Tokyo. Two massive festivals took place, the grand Koenji Awaodori Festival and also the Minamikoshigaya Awaodori Festival up in Saitama Prefecture, just north of Tokyo. The Saitama festival takes place on broad modern streets, much different from the intimate and down to earth Koenji festival, so there is a big difference in how the two festivals compare. Although not nearly as big and varied as the Koenji festival the Minamikoshigaya festival manages to attract several of genuine Tokushima teams which are generally regarded as the best in the world. It is not really fair to compare the teams, but there are some truly exceptional teams in terms of skill to be seen in this festival. One of them, a personal favorite and quite famous around the country is the Ebisuren straight from Tokushima Prefecture itself. They performed late in the evening of this very long festival but gave a near perfect performance, as usual.
Next year come August, if you wan’t to see Awaodori but are not too keen on the crowds of Koenji, I recommend trying out Minamikoshigaya, it is easy to get there from Tokyo as the Hanzomon subway line connects all the way through.
At the Tomioka Hachimangu a couple of weeks ago I saw this performance of Indonesian gamelan music performed by a mixed troupe of dancers and musicians at the shrine itself. I had never seen it before and the fascinating music and movements were fantastic. Sometimes even traditional Japanese festivals show you things from completely different cultures. The performance was a huge hit with the audience. I overheard lots of people comparing it to the performances they had seen when visiting the island of Bali which in the last few years has become a very popular travel destination for Japanese tourists.