Every year behind the grand Sensoji temple in Asakusa the firefighter’s associations of Japan gather to hold a ceremony to commemorate the ones who have fallen. During the ceremony, representatives from the 88 different traditional groups perform ladder acrobatics and their famous matoi dances, a recurring motif in art and dolls in Japanese culture. About 1000 people participate in the ceremony which is held on the last Sunday of May. I blogged quite a lot about this last year so please go read last year’s post if you are interested in learning more!
Regular readers of this blog will know that I am completely in love with these ladder acrobatics and the imagery associated with traditional Japanese firefighters, so please excuse me for indulging in yet a few more matori-heavy posts!
The ceremony itself, despite being fantastically entertaining, free and quite photogenic, is almost completely unknown to the general public and most of the regular people who turn up to watch are tourists to the temple who just happened to wander past. If you are in Tokyo in late May you really should come and see this!
The last day of the massive Sanja Matsuri in Tokyo’s Asakusa district is when they bring out the big three omikoshi of the shrine itself. The different neighborhood groups take turns handling them and competition for the best spots get quite fierce. I am always surprised there aren’t more injuries when I see these portable shrines coming down the streets.
The original four omikoshi, dating back to the early 17th century were lost in the firebombings of the war, but three of them has since been replaced by more modern omikoshi about 60 years ago. The fourth omikoshi still hasn’t been replaced, and maybe it never will. This omikoshi is exactly 1000kg heavy but the others are slightly heavier still.
The police did their best in protecting both participants and tourists, but sometimes they were too busy saving themselves. Even viewed from a distance the ceremony is exciting as you are never quite sure where the omikoshi is heading. I am already looking forward to next year’s big festival!
Yesterday I visited the massive Sanja Matsuri (三社祭) and enjoyed a full day of festival fun. The weather was good (too good in fact, I look like a well cooked lobster right now) and the sun fierce. There are lots of different things going on all over the festival area that covers dozens of city blocks in all directions from the Sensoji temple area, the heart of the festival. I took these photos of a just very few of the over one hundred omikoshi teams that crisscrosses the streets of Asakusa for the duration of the festival.
The main impression of this year’s festival was the huge number of foreign tourists I saw! Just comparing with last year’s festival the number of foreigners must have increased at least two, maybe even three fold. I heard Chinese, Korean and Thai as often as I heard Japanese on streets, in addition to French, German and plenty of English! It looks like my prediction from earlier was correct: most foreign tourists in Tokyo this weekend must have been at this festival.
Today is the final day of the festival and also the peak, everything will get even more crowded and even more crazy! More photos to come!
The biggest event in Tokyo of the year has started, the massive Sanja Matsuri drawing a couple of million visitors and participants during the three main days of the event. Today is the second day of the event and while I do not have any photos of this year’s festival here are some more from the 2013 Sanja Matsuri. If you are a tourist in Tokyo this weekend, chances are that you will spend at least part of it here!
But just in case you are not really interested in this event, there are still several other festivals taking place in other parts in and around Tokyo. Here are three alternatives for you to consider, but there are many more: