I was holding out not blogging about this, it just seemed to obvious, but after having heard from trusted friends that this really is a thing worth experiencing, I can’t hold out on you anymore! If you have been in Tokyo the last few months chances are you have seen the giant fembots circling the streets advertising the extravagant Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku’s Kabukicho area. Not having gone myself, I can only take my friends word for it, but they say there is nothing like it in this world. Maybe so. I still can’t stop taking a few snaps every time I see these giant contraptions being towed around Tokyo! I think there are four of them. If you want to read more about the restaurant they are advertising you can find their homepage here, but remember to turn down your speakers, the site is as loud as the restaurant itself! Here they are being towed through Omotesando the day before yesterday, and through Shinjuku last year. If you go – be sure to let me know how it was!
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!