The famous lion dance can be seen all over Asia, and of course also here in Japan. At most festivals there is a group of lion heads dancers, “shishi-gashira”, and they interact with the audience before or after the performance by biting the heads of people, something which is supposed to bring good luck and courage! It’s so much fun to watch how different people react to having their head chewed on by a giant wooden lion’s head. Some kids are really stoic about it while others cry, kick and scream to get out of it! I saw this duo perform for the visitors to the New Year’s celebration at Yasukuni Shrine.
Did you get your omikuji for the new year yet? Omikuji are random fortune telling slips that you buy at shrines and certain temples. You can buy them all year round but most people make sure to get one on the first few days after the new year. There are usually twelve levels of fortune, one of which is indicated on the slip you receive. Some slips are very detailed and contain specific advice and information regarding different aspects of your fortune but most people only look wether they get the highest ranked omikuji, the daikichi or the lowest, daikyou, or anything in between. A positive omikuji is supposed to be worn close to your body and most people put them in their wallets. Negative omikuji can be neutralized by tying them at certain places in the shrine or around the branches of trees or as in this case, tied to a rope tied around a holy tree. Most people then go on and get one more omikuji, looking forward to a better fortune this time! I took this photo at Yasukuni shrine near Kudanshita on New Year’s Day.
Sometimes people who practice martial arts become so proficient with their weapons that it becomes reasonably safe to start practicing with real weapons instead of the blanks or dummys most mere mortals have to use. At the famous Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo’s Kudanshita district I saw these two elderly masters give a flashing sword fight performance with real blades. Obviously they are well choreographed, but still you would need to be able use the weapons very well in order to be able to perform these shows regularly. Yasukuni Shrine is a great place to go to see classic Japanese culture for free. I saw this performance in the morning of the large Mitama Festival in the summer of this year.
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!