More photos from the Oiran parade in Tokyo’s Asakusa district last weekend. I have been going for a few years now and this year the crowd was the biggest yet. Maybe word is getting out? There is a far bigger parade with several orian in Kitashinagawa every year that has far fewer people. I guess Asakusa is just better branded than Kitashinagawa (although Kitashinagawa also lays claim to some great Godzilla fame!). The day was sunny and the crowds wild. At the end of the parade I got a chance to sneak up in front and get some group photos of the main participants just before they turned around and went to their temporary headquarters in a nearby school. I love the face one of the young assistants to the oiran is making in one of the photos, she must have had an itchy nose!
The orian have a very special way of walking, as in every third step they take they sweep their feet very low in a wide arc, difficult to catch in photos but it looks quite spectacular and is unique as far as I know. You can tell from their three-pronged (remember that normal Japanese shoes have two prongs while monks and tengu have one!) shoes and the way they are scratched bare how low they go in that special step.
In late March the Saitama Prefecture City of Kawagoe celebrated its annual Spring Festival, an ongoing event until the first week of May. The opening ceremony and events all took place in the old parts of Kawagoe City known by its nickname of Koedo, or Little Edo due to its old similarities to Tokyo and also because several old Edo period buildings remain in the city. The best preserved of these are to be found in the Kurazukuri street (蔵造りの町並み), an old street lined with massive kura buildings, fire- and earthquake proof store houses for the city’s merchants and samurai. Kawagoe is also famous for its bell tower, Tokinokane, which has spawned two characters used to market the city for tourism and business! The round little Tokimo and the super hero styled Tokinokaneman. Tokimo combines the bell tower with the other famous product of the city, sweet potato.
One of the events of the day, aimed at children and families was the koinobori coloring event. One street was devoted to kids who could color their own personal koinobori, a traditional paper carp hung up across the street. The kids seemed to have a lot of fun and the whole street turned very colorful indeed.
More photos and information on Kawagoe City coming later on this week so stay tuned to learn more about this great tourist destination not far from Tokyo.
Saturday saw the annual Oiran revival parade through the streets of northern Asakusa, complete with fox dancers, one oiran and a number of geisha and various retainers and servants. The parade is just a reenactment of customs that were considered quaint and old fashioned even in the mid Edo-period (18th century). The location of the parade is not a coincidence, as it takes place a couple of blocks south of the old walled city within the city, the famous Yoshiwara district of Asakusa which was one of Tokyo’s most talked about pleasure or red light districts. Today absolutely nothing remains of the old Yoshiwara itself though except parts of the old street pattern. People today associate Yoshiwara with the old sex industry but in fact Yoshiwara was also home of comedians, professional story tellers and the 18th century equivalent of avant garde fashion houses.
The weather on this sunny Saturday was fantastic and I took plenty of photos, here are a first bunch, with more to come later on.
If you are in Tokyo today I can recommend a visit to the huge Sensoji temple in Asakusa to see the rather unique and beautiful white egret dancers – Shirasaginomai (白鷺の舞). Local children together with musicians and performers from the large Yasaka shrine in Kyoto perform in the ceremony that was only revived in 1968 using an old scroll from 1652 as basis for the dance itself.