One of the best summer festivals in the capital is undoubtedly the massive three day Mitama Matsuri at Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo’s Kudanshita. The last few years the festival goers have been entertained by a great Awaodori performance by the local team, Kitanogomonren (北の御門連). The team was founded by and for people living in and near the Iidabashi, Kudanshita and Fujimi ditricts. I took these photos of their performance at Yasukuni Shrine, beautifully (although very sparingly) lit up by the many lanterns of the festival against the backdrop of the blue beams from the twin searchlights.
It is hard to tell in these photos but the evening was exceptionally hot, with daytime temperatures between 34 and 35 degrees celsius (about 93 degrees F). The dancers somehow managed to give us half an hour of concentrated dancing! Their uniforms must have been soaked afterwards.
Here’s some more snapshots of the fabulously beautiful Mitama Matsuri paper lanterns. You buy these at a special counter and the shrine will then write your name and place them around the shrine grounds on these large wooden frames. The whole image is almost breathtaking at dusk, and it looks fantastic even at night. Some of the visitors were wonderfully dressed up in traditional summer yukata, while others were just plain wonderful. I can’t wait for next years Mitama Matsuri here at the Yasukuni Shrine!
Here are some more photos of the second evening of the huge Mitama Matsuri at the Yasukuni Shrine in central Tokyo. These beautiful ladies were fully concentrated on the task of painting their wind chimes, while the festival rages on behind them (see the guys behind them taking photos). I took a similar image last year, it could be fun to compare maybe. I know the yellow/red tone of these photos might not be popular with other photographers, but I like it! It reminds me of how hot it was, so to me it makes the photos better. Maybe not in a technical sense though.
There was only one male customer painting when I took these pictures, and his daughter had the coolest sun glasses I have seen in a long while! Don’t you agree? I wish I could be that stylish! Today is the last day of the Mitama Matsuri, so make sure you go!
It’s started – the massive Mitama Matsuri, a huge festival held every year at the Yasukuni Shrine in Kudanshita, central Tokyo. According to authorities there’s supposed to be at least 300 000 people attending the four day event (today was only the second day) but today was much more crowded than anything Mitama Matsuri I have ever seen before. I think this year will see a record number of visitors, maybe even 400 000! It might not sound much compared to the really big festivals like the millions of people who visit the Sanja Matsuri in Asakusa, but the area where this is held is so much smaller.
It was incredibly crowded and I had to fight every step to keep up with the omikoshi. At some points we all just go stuck and I had time to turn my camera on the crowds instead. Even the kids high on their father’s shoulders had to stretch to get a good view of the omikoshi, and I sure wasn’t the only one taking photos, although probably the worst looking after trying to keep up with the omikoshi on one of the hottest and muggiest days of the year so far. You can see just how hot it is by looking at the man in the fourth picture! As I took this he was trying to make sense of his beer drinking friend that was wildly trying to tell him that he should have his photo taken by me. After the message got through he shot me the winning smile of the day, although at that point I was too exhausted to notice my focus had gone way off. Well, you can’t get the picture every time!
In the fifth picture (fifth file actually) you can see that I had to make use of any temporary little gap to try and get a glimpse of the omikoshi at most points. The closer we were getting to the main shrine the more lantern lines and power chords had to be negotiated, and like a good crowd we all roared with approval when they managed to stay clear of the lines by making everyone bend down with the omikoshi at just the right moment.
Mitama matsuri is on again on Sunday and Monday (which is a public holiday in Japan), so if you are in Tokyo I really recommend going. Cultural performances start at 10 in the morning but the main festival starts up at 18, so you can split it into two halves with a long lunch break! I really recommend that you go early to see all those unusual traditional dances and performance you almost never get a chance to see otherwise, like iaido and eco period dances! Even ballet I think! You can get to Yasukuni Shrine by Kudanshita or Iidabashi stations, together they serve about half of all the major train and subway lines in Tokyo, so you have no excuses to be lazy this weekend!