If you are in Tokyo tonight and looking for something fun to see I recommend visiting the Koujiya Awaodori festival in Tokyo’s Ota Ward, not far from the Haneda Airport. It is a two day event starting tonight and ending tomorrow Saturday, from 1900 to 2100. Koujiya Station is on the Keikyu Airport Line (Keikyukukousen), but it is also possible to walk there from the Keikyu Kamata Station (less than 15 minutes) or the Kamata Station (less than 25 minutes) if you are less keen on the trains.
One of the teams performing tonight will be the Gorakuren (伍楽連), a team from the neighboring Kanagawa Prefecture’s city of Sagamihara. I know most photographers focus on the wonderful looking women of Awaodori but there are a lot of very cool men also performing in each of the teams. Here are some of the guys dancing and drumming for Gorakuren!
One of the things I love the most about Japanese festivals is that they are so multi-generational. Everyone gets a chance to join in and there is a place for everyone regardless of age or ability. One of the most exciting festivals in Tokyo is the massive Oeshiki buddhist ceremony at the huge Honmonji in Ikegami, Ota Ward in southern Tokyo. I took these photos of kids joining in, mimicking the adults with their matoi poles and ritual dancing. The kid’s versions are obviously much smaller but they still take it very seriously. Some of the kids are taped up like pro athletes! I can imagine that the constant twisting of the matoi poles can be very hard on fingers, hands and wrists. They also use a very fine talcum powder to get a proper grip on the poles, as the evening progresses the talcum tends to get everywhere! I found when I got home that evening that I too had been covered in a grey mist of powder! Even my camera was coated in it.
One little kid in particular caught my attention, too small to take part in the dancing the kid was still participating fully even from the pram!
I thought the first night of the massive Oeshiki ceremony in Tokyo’s Ikegami district was pretty crowded, seeing as the out of town participants usually don’t show up until the second night. It turns out I was just lucky being in the right place at the right time as I caught most of the local teams as they pulled up for huge group photo on the beginning of the procession route towards the temple on top of the hill. Several teams and their leaders lined up in front of the official photographer and I sneaked right up to him, almost just below his ladder. I think the main guy in the photos were the leader of the local teams but I could be wrong. Still, they were all very photogenic!
More photos from the first of the three nights of the massive buddhist Oeshiki ceremony in memory of saint Nichiren in Tokyo’s Ikegami district. Followers of the Nichiren buddhist sect from all over Japan (and I think I spotted a few foreign monks as well) gather to celebrate at the sect’s main temple, the Ikegami Honmonji temple. The festival is famous for the matoi dancers which are usually reserved for firefighters, and the huge mando, the festive and lit up miniature temples carried or pulled in the parade that winds its way through town until it reaches the main temple building. The first night is dedicated mostly to local teams and youth teams and they don’t actually enter the temple grounds. I followed the parade around and took these photos of the probably very fit matoi dancers. The temple itself is nearly deserted compared to what it will look like the next evening. The last night of the ceremony was yesterday, but if you are in Tokyo during early November there is another Oeshiki in Zoshigaya near Ikebukuro that is not as crowded but just as intense. Enjoy!