Saturday saw the annual Oiran revival parade through the streets of northern Asakusa, complete with fox dancers, one oiran and a number of geisha and various retainers and servants. The parade is just a reenactment of customs that were considered quaint and old fashioned even in the mid Edo-period (18th century). The location of the parade is not a coincidence, as it takes place a couple of blocks south of the old walled city within the city, the famous Yoshiwara district of Asakusa which was one of Tokyo’s most talked about pleasure or red light districts. Today absolutely nothing remains of the old Yoshiwara itself though except parts of the old street pattern. People today associate Yoshiwara with the old sex industry but in fact Yoshiwara was also home of comedians, professional story tellers and the 18th century equivalent of avant garde fashion houses.
The weather on this sunny Saturday was fantastic and I took plenty of photos, here are a first bunch, with more to come later on.
If you are in Tokyo today I can recommend a visit to the huge Sensoji temple in Asakusa to see the rather unique and beautiful white egret dancers – Shirasaginomai (白鷺の舞). Local children together with musicians and performers from the large Yasaka shrine in Kyoto perform in the ceremony that was only revived in 1968 using an old scroll from 1652 as basis for the dance itself.
As often as I can I like to just go out and walk around Tokyo. No matter how many times I visit my favorite places I never get tired and there is always something to see. I took these on a day like today, just about a year ago. I walked from Asakusabashi to Asakusa along Sumida River, then up to the Sensoji temple and beyond. On the way you’ll get plenty of views of the magnificent Tokyo Sky Tree tower, and I also passed by as a street crew were working on repairing one of the many electric cable poles the line most streets of Tokyo. The second picture, close up, is actually the same photo but I cut it heavily to get the chiseled features of the man in the crane!
There were plenty of New Year’s parties and celebrations going on in Tokyo as the clock struck twelve, but the activity that drags most people out on the cold streets are the traditional shrine or temple visits of the new year! The tradition is called Hatsumode and I have been an avid fan since my first New Year’s in Japan, many years ago. Most people visit shrines but some people make a point of going to a temple instead, but in some places like Asakusa, you can visit both a temple and a shrine at almost the same time! I took these photos a few minutes before midnight, as I was in a hurry to visit a string of smaller and more familiar shrines in the area. There were already thousands of people lined up and there were squads of police all over the area to make sure the greeting of the new year went smoothly. Recently younger people have started meeting in the big Shibuya street crossing at midnight, much to the consternation of the local traffic police. Myself I prefer the more traditional new year’s celebrations, of shrines, charms, prayers and the good smell of the bonfires!
Asakusa is rapidly becoming the major sight seeing spot for domestic and foreign tourists alike, ever since the area was upgraded and the new lighting scheme of the temple and shrine buildings turned the entire area fashionably gorgeous. More photos of the celebrations to come!