Looking back at the posts of last week I see that the blog has become a little bit unbalanced with all the posts on beauties, and I think it’s time that I made this up with a few photos of the handsome men of the Urayasu Sanja Matsuri! Maybe it’s just me, but I think it’s physically impossible for a Japanese man not to look vastly better in traditional Japanese clothes, and especially in festival garb, than in boring western clothes. Here goes, a big Thank You to all the men of Urayasu for a job well done!
As with all cities in Japan, Urayasu was originally a collection of small villages with their own administration and unique differences. You can still see the remains of these ancient villages in the common trades, place names, architecture or sometimes even (anecdotally at least) the personalities of the inhabitants! In Urayasu, in what is today the main part of the city, there was once a small fishing village called Nekozane (猫実), a name that the village took after surviving a major tsunami, most likely sometime in the 13th century. The story behind the name is long and complicated (too much for me to tell properly), so I’ll leave it for any historian passing by the blog! Remarkably, even though they’ve suffered tsunami, earthquakes and wars, many families can trace their history quite a long way back and so people tend quite proud of their deep roots and memories sometimes run deep. Nekozane for example, has a long history of fishing and there are still old families that hold tight to their ancient fishing rights by keeping the family spot in the ship canal properly occupied with some sort of water vessel (which explains many of the old semi-wrecks you sometimes see around canals and harbors in Tokyo and Chiba). In 1788 for example, three members of the village had to be killed in a territorial fishing rights dispute (or fishermen’s war) before the shogun would intervene and set the boundaries once and for all.
I took these photos of some of the people belonging to Nekozane’s Gochome (猫実五丁目), or the fifth subdivision (there are five in all) as they carried their omikoshi through the streets of Urayasu. One man at the front was spinning a very clever little machine that created a continuous stream of soap bubbles! This was during a brief lull in the rain that was to fall throughout the day and evening, you can see in the last photo their photographer protecting her camera with a plastic rain cover!
The festival is actually taking place right now, so if you have time I really recommend heading over to Urayasu right now. Even though it is in Chiba prefecture it is a mere 15 minutes on the subway from central Tokyo on the Tozai line! That’s right, excellent weather and less than 200 yen train fare, you have no excuse not to go! See yesterday’s post for more details.
Right across the river that borders Tokyo from the neighboring Chiba prefecture lies Urayasu City, with a population of about 165 000 people and a long history it also puts on quite a few large festivals! On the 16th and 17th of June this year there is the large Urayasu Sanja Rettaisai, or Urayasu Sanja Matsuri for short. Once every three four years the three major shrines of the city of Urayasu join together in one huge festival! Today, right now as a matter of fact, was the first day of the festival even though persistent heavy rain put a damper on the audience the participants didn’t seem to mind being thoroughly soaked after the first few minutes. Every cloud has a silver lining and this time it was probably the fact that very few people showed up to watch it, so photography was pretty easy and I managed to get pretty much the place I wanted. If you are near Urayasu right now I really recommend grabbing an umbrella and heading over there, or if you’d rather not be out in the rain tomorrow looks like much better weather. Expect heavy crowds though, as everyone who stayed home today will want to see it on the second day. It’s only on once every four years so here’s your chance! Here’s a route map of the procession of omikoshi!