Tokyobling's Blog

Yoshiwara Gion Festival Kids

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on June 14, 2014

The Yoshiwara Gion festival is one of the biggest annual festivals in the city of Fuji in Shizuoka prefecture to the west of Tokyo. It kicks of tomorrow Saturday with the grande finale on Sunday when the streets will absolutely packed with both locals and tourists. One of the thins I love about this festival is that is essentially dominated by kids and younger people to a degree you don’t see in the bigger cities like Tokyo. Here are some of the photos I took of kids in full on festival mode during a an hour or so on the Sunday evening of last year’s Gionsai.

If you are in Shizuoka over the weekend or in Tokyo and don’t mind the hour and a half train ride, I can really recommend this festival!

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Yoshiwara Gion Matsuri – This Weekend

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on June 11, 2014

This weekend there’s as usual for the Japanese summer a whole slew of great festivals to visit. One of my favorites is the Yoshiwara Gionsai, or the Yoshiwara Gion Matsuri in Fuji City, Shizuoka Prefecture an hour and a half on the train west of Tokyo. Fuji City and the Yoshiwara neighborhood is famous industries and manufacturing, hence the festival is quite lively, very down to earth and there’s plenty of kids and youngsters making this festival their own. I think it is partly this energy that makes it so much fun. There’s usually quite a few tourists from Shizuoka coming over to visit but not so many from Tokyo or Nagoya.

You can see more photos from the 2013 festival here:
Yoshiwara Gion Matsuri – Fuji City
Yoshiwara Gion Festival Beauties

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Ometaisai – Dashi and Hayashi

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on May 10, 2014

Here are some more photos from the annual Ometaisai, the grand festival of Ome City in western Tokyo, quite far from Shinjuku but connected to it on one long straight road called the Ome Kaido. The Ome Kaido doubles as the venue for the many large Dashi (山車) of the festival. These festival wagons are loaded with musicians and dancers and travel up and down the main street, stopping to do battle with the hayashi teams and other dashi they encounter along the way. The object of the battle is to throw the other team of their rhythm and in case of another dashi it is the winning team that gets right of way while the other team has to hold back. It is the job of all the members of the team to cheer the musicians of their own team on!

Naturally the people pulling these huge wagons get thirsty and there are plenty of spots ready for refreshments on the way, offering square wooden or lacquered boxes from which to drink sake, Japanese fermented rice spirits. In some cities and during some seasons on the corners of the box is prepared with a pinch of salt to help you through the heat of the day. You might recognize the label on the barrel of this hayashi group as being that of the famous Sawanoi Sake brewery that I blogged about late last year. They must have gotten a very good vintage because it tasted fantastic (I lucked out and was offered a box just for passing – and I obviously accepted).

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Ometaisai – Ome Grand Festival

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on May 6, 2014

Every year on the second and third of May the city of Ome in western Tokyo throws its grand festival, the Ometaisai. This is the biggest festival on the little city that lies just in the middle of the great Omekaido, a road that was built in 1603 by orders of the Shogun in Edo (Tokyo) in order to transport material for the Edo castle (sadly long gone). The road stretches from Kofu in Yamanashi prefecture, through Ome City and ends at the big street crossing just to the north of Shinjuku Station. In the old days Ome sprang up as a shukuba, a road post that provided food, rest and lodging for public officials traveling along the road. These days most people use the train to reach Tokyo, which is 800 yen one way from Ome to Shinjuku and take just under an hour. For people working in Tokyo and have their companies pay for the train fare, living in Ome should be a very attractive option: great access to nature, rivers, mountains, hiking trails and hunting, not to mention that rents in Ome City is about one fifth of what they are in central Tokyo!

While visiting the festival I met so many friendly people. There were plenty of dashi, mobile festival wagons, manned by locals. One cool man helped me make sure I got close enough to the dashi to take these photos and stay safe while doing so. The dashi are not so fast but they weave around quite a bit and the crew pulling them sometimes need to act quickly to steer it left or right. I loved the hair on one of the hayashi drummers up on the first dashi I saw: her friend asked me jokingly after taking his photo wether I had also gotten a photo of their own Lady Gaga! Of course I had!

The festival follows the Omekaido, that runs through the city, with hayashi music stations set up at intervals along the route. The dancers on these stations take turns and whenever a shishi (lion) dancer comes out parents rush up with their children to have them bit on the head! It is supposed to bring health, good luck and intelligence! Some kids absolutely hate this but others enjoy it so much they did their best to reach the shishi even without the help of their parents.

If you have a chance to visit the Ome festival, do it! This is easily one of the most easily accessible “countryside” festivals for people based in Tokyo, and it is really fun and colorful. I will keep posting photos from this festival, as everywhere I went there was something fun or interesting going on.

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