The grand festival at the Kitazawa Hachimangu near Tokyo’s Shimokitazawa district is one of my favorites of the “larger” smaller festivals. There are so many things to see and lots of performances and some very very dedicated local people taking part in the festival. I took these photos in black and white at last year’s festival. This year’s festival is coming up in September!
At last year’s Kitazawa Hachimangu Matsuri (festival) in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward I saw one of the most ancient forms of ritual court dances, the Kochonomai, or butterfly dance. It probably arrived to Japan from Korea in the 8th century and has been completely unaltered ever since. The dance is performed by four or eight maidens (which in modern days usually means children) with colorful costumes performing a ritual dance symbolizing the seasons. In their hands they hold branches of the Yamabuki (Kerria japonica), a rose relative that is native to Japan, Korea and China.
Japan has somehow managed to preserve many of their earliest rituals and ceremonies and for the average person, over a millennium removed, they can be difficult to understand. I will have to study this more, but in the meantime, we can just enjoy the colorful dresses and the wonderful tradition of the dances and music!
Awaodori festival season has started and one of the bigger festivals of the summer is the Shimokitzawa Awaodori festival. It’s a two day event, on the 9th and 10th of August, from 18:30 to 20:30. The narrow streets of Shimokitazawa makes for a very intimate and friendly festival where the audience is very close to the dancers. The drummers especially can be dangerous so it is usually best to stand back a little.
I saw the Yattokoren at last year’s festival, one of the local Shimokitazawa teams. The shotengai, or shopping street, where the festival takes place is called Ichibangai which has been place of commerce since the 1920s and really grew big after the second world war as most if survived the bombings and many merchants from other areas flocked to Shimokitazawa. The Awaodori festival was started in 1966 and this year’s festival will be the 49th.
Shimokitazawa is a great place to hang out and there’s plenty of shops and unique little restaurants and alleys to explore, so if you have time in August this year, make sure to visit!
The festival has an English homepage here.
If you are in Tokyo on the 9th and 10th of August, I recommend visiting the Shimokitazawa Awaodori festival for some fantastic Awaodori fun! OI visited on the Saturday event of last year’s festival and got these two groups, the Toshusai (東洲斎) and the Showashinyoginkoren (昭和信用金庫連) which is a team made up of people working in a shinkin bank, a sort of cooperative credit union).
Shimokitazawa is easy to reach on the Odakyu line or on the Keio Inokashira line. The station was recently rebuilt and is now quite a maze and much in contrast with the surrounding area of funky little shops, narrow back streets and cool clubs and bars, good old Shimokita remains the same though! Try to be there early and if you find it crowded try to move away from the station area to find the spots with fewer spectators!