I took so many photos at the grand, once every three years, Fukagawa Hachiman Matsuri a couple of weeks ago. This year I wasn’t about to get as close as last time I visited the festival and got doused in water, ruining my camera. So, here’s a few of the second-best shots, as close as i dared going. I visited on the Saturday of the festival while the main event was on the Sunday, so I missed the fire department and their big hoses for showing the omikoshi and the people underneath!
Tokyo is one of the most crowded capitals on Earth but in the middle of it all there is still opportunities to see a little bit of non-human nature. A while ago I was walking through Tokyo’s famous Asakusa district and saw these pets taking their owners for a walk through the city. Cats are commonplace, both in trams and roaming the streets on their own, seeing a pig though, was the first for me! A few foreign tourists tried to communicate with the pig but he was incredibly focused on the food his owner was enjoying.
Apart from pets there is a surprising amount of wildlife in the city. Even in the most central parts we have Palm Civets, Raccoons and cats. In the outskirts we have foxes, rabbits, kites and eagles and still within city limits but in the most remote areas we have bears, badgers and boars!
Tokyo is full of history and interesting stories if you just know where to look and aren’t too distracted by the food, the fun and the shopping! I have passed these two statues at the famous Sensoji Temple in Japan’s number one tourist site, Asakusa, maybe over a thousand times but I only recently learned about the history of them.
In the first half of the 17th century when Edo was the trading and crafts center of Japan and the home of the ruling Shogun (Warlord) a struggling trader in rice took in a small boy from modern day Gunma prefecture and did his best to teach him about trade and commerce. Eventually the boy returned to his home town and started a very successful trading business. His old master though was not so lucky and died impoverished and destitute. The former apprentice, Takase Zembe, heard of the tragedy and ordered two huge statues of the bodhisattvas Kannon and Seishi. They were donated in 1678 to the memory of the rice merchant and his son. Both the statues miraculously survived the US fire bombings of 1945 and they are still in their original positions to the right of the second Nio gate.
But the story doesn’t end there, because almost 300 years later one of Zembe’s direct descendants, Takase Jiro who was the Japanese ambassador to Sri Lanka in 1996 developed a cultural exchange and partnership between the Sensoji Temple and the famous Isurumuniya Vihara temple in Anuradhapura, the capital of ancient Ceylon (Sri Lanka). As the Senso-ji’s pagoda was rebuilt in 1973, the temple in Sri Lanka dispatched its senior abbot to the dedication ceremony, bringing with him a granule of the physical remains of the Buddha, a massively important relic, to dedicate to the Japanese temple.
The granule remains in the pagoda to this day and I hope both it and the two statues representing the gratitude of a devoted apprentice to his former master will remain for many thousands of years to come.
I passed the statues a little while ago, and found them occupied by two birds who posed perfectly for the camera.
The biggest mainland Awaodori festival of the year is taking place right now at Koenji. The massive Koenji festival attracts almost a million visitors and features over 10 000 dancers and musicians in one of the most epic festivals of the year here in Tokyo. Starting at 1700 these days (but with plenty of sporadic dancing from around noon to 1600 during the day as well) you get a good view of the teams in daylight as well as dusk and evening. I took these photos of the Hisagoren (ひさご連) at yesterday’s festival. Especially the chibi dancers up front were as cute as buttons!
Tonight will be even better as the teams give their best for the final show. Since this is the biggest event for many teams around Japan many of them have been training hard especially for this night, so if you are in Tokyo and don’t mind the heat and the crowds, go over there and cheer them on!