I love foxes, so I’m lucky to live in a country where foxes are important in mythology and folk culture, such as these hayashi dancers you sometimes see at local festivals. Accompanied by drummers, a flutist and often one or two other dancers, the fox is a popular role to portray especially for younger boys! This young fox was already quite skilled, and together with a lion he performed a quite fearsome dance by the side of the road in Hachiouji, Western Tokyo earlier this summer. These days the fox mane of white hair is synthetic, but in the old days poorer groups would use dried grass, and I am sure the richer ones used real hair!
More photos from the opening parade on the last day of the Hachioji Matsuri. It’s always great to see the drummer in their traditional happi (the short overcoat which was usually worn over a haramaki or stomach roll, but these days can be a tank top or t-shirt or anything) over the shorts or fundoshi, a traditional one piece cloth tied up to function like normal underwear but cheaper and easier to wash. You don’t see many men in fundoshi these days, and I’ve never seen a woman in wearing it, but some more local matsuri or festivals still have this traditional piece of clothing as part of their festival uniform. The women look fabulous and the guys really look fantastic in these traditional clothes, and obviously very masculine. It’s incredible how most Japanese men or women look a hundred times better in traditional clothes!
Many of the larger city parades has an official opening ceremony (in no way the start of the festival which often has been going on for hours and hours before the opening), the festival in Hachioji in western Tokyo had a very impressive parade with representatives of all the neighborhoods of the city carrying a paper lantern on a pole. This day was exceedingly hot with well over 35 degrees in the shadow and much much hotter in the sun. You can see heat in their faces! Their slow pace, matched to the rhythm of a drum team made it all very impressive!
Hachioji Matsuri is not all huge dashi but also the more common omikoshi carried around town in processions by the townspeople themselves. Carrying these heavy ceremonial shrines is not meant to be a task to be accomplished in the easiest way possible, but rather a group effort where the group’s strength and weaknesses are multiplied through this shrine. If it was just a question of carrying a heavy load from point a to point b it would be far easier accomplished with just four persons. This is one of the secrets to understanding Japanese society I believe.