Being a very local festival means that you have to make the most of all the resources you’ve got. At the Onoterusaki Shrine festival last weekend local school kids manned the festival wagon, the dashi, to make sure the adults had the proper music for when they carried their omikoshi around the neighborhood. There were a whole bunch of kids piled into the little dashi and several others walked next to it for their turn at the drums. An adult drum leader and flute leader took turns leading the kids and making sure they didn’t stray too far from the traditional festival melodies that have stayed the same for centuries, maybe even millennia. When these kids grow up and have children of their own they’ll do the same I think.
The music in these festivals are very catchy, and once I hear one loop of the flute the melody tends to get stuck in my head for days afterwards. After visiting a few dozens of festivals you start picking up on the subtle differences in tone and melody. The two that I can never get out of my head so far is one particular bugle call from the Hamamatsu festival in Shizuoka and a buddhist flute melody from the Ikegami Oeshiki here in Tokyo.
I took these two photos of the cherry blossoms at Tokyo’s Rikugien at the end of March. This year’s sakura viewing season was the earliest ever in Japan, a full ten day ahead of schedule, so it was still freezing cold at night. Rikugien is famous for its grand weeping cherry trees and this year it was as magnificent as usual. I actually took these photos on behalf of Special.T, a European tea brand, for their sakura tea marketing campaign. Me and a few other photographers contributed hanami photos from all over the country and they were all presented at the brand’s Pinterest page, go check it out, there are some great photos there from some really good photographers, both locals and travelers. The campaign is over but the photos are still up. Or you can compare this year’s Rikugien photos with the ones I took last year. They are pretty similar!
Last weekend was torture and heaven at the same time for us festival lovers of Tokyo. First there was the huge annual Sanja festival in Asakusa with hundreds of years of tradition and 2 million visitors. Then there was the huge Ohara Kagoshima festival in Shibuya on Sunday with a rare chance to see a genuine Kagoshima prefecture festival in Tokyo! On top of that we had the once every three year superbly local festival at the Onoterusaki Shrine in Tokyo’s Iriya district, which is actually so close to Asakusa that the omikoshi from the two completely unrelated festivals could share the same border street without any interaction. Naturally I picked the Onoterusaki festival to spend the bulk of my time, because it is the rarest and also because it is so close to the much more famous Asakusa festival there were virtually no tourists at all. I think I saw one or two on both days of the festival, other than that there were almot only locals or people actually involved in the festival procession itself. In other words, Fantastic and just the kind of festival I am always looking out for. Here’s some photos of one of the omikoshi “docking” near the shrine on the first day of the festival. Many more to come!
Nougaku, or Noh for short, is one of the original art forms of Japan. Even today, living in Tokyo I get to see a few performances every year. This one was held at Asakusa Shrine just next to the famous Sensoji temple during last weekend’s Sanja festival. I couldn’t help getting a picture of one young member of the audience in his festival finest.