This Saturday Tokyo was practically saturated with festivals. There were too many to even consider trying to see more than a few of them. On Saturday evening I visit the bigger than expected Nebuta Matsuri at Sakurashinmachi. The Nebuta festival is the most famous cultural export out of Aomori Prefecture up north, one of the most all-in festivals of the country with huge paper sculptures lit from within, thousands of dancers in what at first looks like a mosh pit at a punk festival, huge drums and a very addictive flute melody that tends to get itself stuck in your mind for days. In other words, great fun! Aomori prefecture is very far from Tokyo so there are quite a few festivals around Tokyo bringing Aomori to the city rather than the other way around.
Sakurashinmachi is famous for two things, horses and Sazaesan, the massively popular long running animated TV show featuring a multi-generational family living in this town. So over half of the Nebuta decorations are Sazaesan-themed and very popular with the kids! It is easy to get here, by the Denentoshi Line connecting with the Hanzomon Subway line in Shibuya. More photos to come!
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!
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!
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!