Last weekend was mini Awaodori heaven for us who have seen the light! There’s basically three events that can’t be missed on the Awaodori calendar, the main event in Tokushima, the two day massive festival in Koenji (both in August) and this one, the last weekend of July when the whole of the Kanto region goes Awaodori crazy. There were festivals all from Kanagawa to Chiba with Awaodori performances, with several going on in greater Tokyo at the same time. Too bad you can only be at one place at a time! So I spent Friday at the parade in Kagurazaka (神楽坂), mainly because I wanted a chance to see two of my favorite teams perform at the same time but also because Kagurazaka has a really good mix of dedicated teams and beginners. One of the most famous teams at Kagurazaka must be the Tenguren (天狗連), using the mythical winged tengu demon/spirit as their symbol. Tenguren has a very cute and dedicated kids troupe called Kotengu (小天狗), or the mini-tengu. In a few years I hope to see these kids graduated and moved up to the regular Tenguren troupe! I love the way Japanese society works in which they send the youngest and most inexperienced members out first, to really boost their confidence and skill – not only in Awaodori but also in business! Often in large Japanese corporations you’ll meet very junior members participating in very large and important business projects.
Not only are these kotengu very cute, they also have these fantastic green and white costumes with what I call the rabbit ears headband! I am sure there is a proper name for this style of headband. Enjoy!
Last weekend Shinjuku saw the annual Hanazono Shrine festival, the Hanazono Retaisai (花園神社例大祭 in Japanese). Most shrines have several festivals or matsuri doing the year, but the one to look out for is the reisai or reitaisai, which is a name give to the most important festival of the year for the shrine in question. As with all reitaisai, the different neighborhoods belonging to the shrine did their part and fielded huge teams of omikoshi bearers, standard bearers and musicians. I got a little late to the festival’s last day, but I managed to catch the Sankouchou (三光町) team as they finished their rounds, on the small back street between the shrine and the fantastic little area knowns as Golden Gai. Sankouchou is the old name (pre-1970s) for what is today, mostly Kabukichou Ichoume (歌舞伎町一丁目) and a handful of other locations around that area. Most interestingly, it includes Golden Gai and a large part of one of Asia’s largest red light districts, Kabukichou. Like churches and parishes in Christian countries, the old parish boundaries are still usually in use when it comes to festivals and traditions, which is also true in Japan. The address you live in decides which “parish” shrine you belong to, and you should look it up. It is not always the biggest or the closest shrine to your house.
The Hanazono shrine is the main shrine of the area to the east of Shinjuku station and therefore one of the most important shrines in Tokyo! The festival is a huge three day event and the last day saw a lot of streets being closed of for traffic to accommodate the omikoshi and the crowds. Great fun and definitely one of the most accessible shrine festivals in Japan. It’s a family thing with lot of people from all ages and all walks of life, from the underworld to the highest ranking politicians, and at the end, some really tired children. Enjoy!
Just a few photos today I’m afraid, but of two of my favorite subjects, kids and festivals! These two kids spent quite some time banging away at this drum, between gigs. Perhaps they’ll pick it up in earnest when they grow older? And what about the boy on the left’s haircut? I’m betting 10 000 yen that his father gave him that haircut himself! I wish I had gotten a mohikan when I was that age too. The last photo is of two kids trying out their bird whistles, usually sold at festivals to entertain kids. I only ever see or hear them on festival days though, they make a loud, bird chirping sound that’s hard to miss. Their parents must be very disciplined!