On the beautiful Sunday morning walk through the northwestern end of Tokyo’s Shinjuku ward I visited Akagi Shrine, in the famous Kagurazaka district. I have blogged about this beautiful and very modern looking shrine before, but this is the first time I have seen it covered in snow. I have also visited it just before dawn on the New Year’s Day of 2013, and I have several posts about the fabulous Akagi Shrine festival held in September every year (here, here, here, here and a gorgeous shrine dancer here).
This branch shrine here in Kagurazaka is a tributary of the three main Akagi Shrines in Gunma Prefecture’s Akagiyama. It was originally constructed in 1300 in modern day Ushigome, just a short distance from where it was transferred to in 1555. The original 1300 building burned down in 1842 and the reconstructed shrine was again destroyed in the bombing raids of 1945. It was rebuilt again in 1951, as a kindergarten which was closed in 2009 and the task or redesigning the shrine minus the kindergarten but with attached apartments and a cafe gallery went to the famous architect Kengo Kuma in 2010. The level of the shrine was raised drastically in the 2010 rebuilding and now it has a set of very impressive stone stairs leading up the smaller shrine building. Underneath this are storage areas, garages and offices. Even before 2010 the shrine was located right on top of Kagurazaka hill but now it stands even higher.
As I walked up the steep stairs I could already see people busy shoveling snow from the shrine grounds, and people were again busy in the street leading up the front of the shrine. The white of the snow, the red of the shrine and the blue of the skies made it a wonderfully beautiful sight!
Festival seasons there are just too many places to go and events to attend. I passed Kagurazaka on the last evening of the Akagi Shrine festival and took these photos of the stalls around the shrine and the omikoshi of the local community. It was one of the first cool evenings since the start of summer but I think it is too early to call the end of summer yet! There are still a few festivals around to enjoy. Akagi shrine, which I have posted about a couple of times before is one of the most modern shrines in Japan, well worth a visit if you are into modern architecture.
This weekend was very intense for festival lovers here in Tokyo, there were far too many festivals and events to be able to attend even a few of them, I always feel that the last weekend of July here in Tokyo has enough events crammed in to last most other cities a whole year! Me being the essential Awaodori super fan, I spent the weekend in Tokyo’s Kagurazaka district, where there were big Awaodori parades on both Friday and Saturday. Sadly though, the parade on Saturday was cancelled due to a sudden and rather massive thunderstorm. Awaodori dancers are generally hard as nails when it comes to weather, remember the festival that was drenched by a typhoon a couple of years back? But the audience generally isn’t, so after 45 minutes of braving the elements they gave up and called it a night.
I took these photos on the Friday performance of the Tsutsujiren, whose full name is Shinjukukuyakushotsutsujiren (新宿区役所つつじ連). Quite a mouth full! They were founded in 1988 and as the name tells us, is the official Awaodori team of the Shinjuku Ward Office! I have a soft spot for public workers taking part in these festivals, to me it is pure dedication! I can’t imagine the city office in my home town back in Europe doing something like this! The team has an especially energetic group of otoko odori, the male (and in the case of some teams sometimes female) dancers with the funny headscarves, these guys really knew how to give it their best!
Yesterday was a national holiday, the Seijin no hi, which roughly translates as the coming of age day. It is a day to celebrate all the people that turn twenty during the year, and thus turn into fully fledged adults. In Tokyo it also happened to be the day of one of the biggest snow storms for many many years! Tokyo was thick with snow and on any street you happened to pass you would see cars that were stuck in the sticky snow or cars that were unable to go uphill. I and a couple of other random people who walked past one minivan that was hopelessly stuck managed to get it moving after about 15 minutes of pushing and heaving. Great fun, but not very typical of Tokyo winter weather. Usually you see thousands of beautifully dressed young people but despite spending the day outside I did not see more than a handful, as several train lines had stopped running all subway lines were delayed more or less throughout the day. Here are two beauties that I managed to stop and ask to take a picture of! Normally it isn’t this easy to get people to pose, but I think they realized how special the situation was! As a bonus, the last photo is of a taxi who after struggling for 10 minutes trying to go up the slight incline of a hill decided to turn around and go back instead, it took 3 people the better part of half an hour to get the taxi away! Luckily there was very little traffic on the streets today.