Like last year I went to the Nezu Shrine festival, but this time my main goal was to watch the fantastic performance by the Nezu Gongendaiko (根津権現太鼓) taiko drum group. Unfortunately rains kept them from performing for a while so they only gave a short version of their regular performance but it was still great. Taiko drumming is essentially a group effort. Team play is hugely important and also much more interesting to watch. It takes a huge amount of training to become as good as this group, but most schools have taiko groups so there are a lot of people with the potential to move forward. Taiko drumming is also very open to change. Many free groups are experimenting with the style and you never quite know what to expect when watching a performance. The future looks very bright for Taiko drumming!
The Nezu Shrine on the edge of Bunkyo Ward but very close to the neighboring Taito Ward in the old heart of Tokyo is a great setting for a summer festival. The shrine buildings are interesting enough but there’s also plenty of topography, a bridge and a few ponds. One of my favorite shrines in Tokyo the festival is also one of my favorites. I hardly had time to visit this year so I just came for one of the taiko performances but since it was delayed due to the sudden rain (taiko drums and rain does not go well together) I had time to aim my camera at other things for a few minutes. I’ll post images from the taiko performance later!
Nezu Shrine is easy to access from Nezu or Sendagi stations on the Chiyoda subway line, or you can use the Todaimae station on the Namboku line. If you want to do some sight seeing I can really recommend the nice and quiet little neighborhood to the east of the shrine down to the famous Ueno park and the nearby Ueno station. A longer but interesting walk.
It is always a challenge to photography evening time festivals in Japan but one of the most challenging is the Kagurazaka Festival at the Akagi Shrine which is really very dark. It is so dark that one of the local omikoshi has been fitted with LED lights to great effect. It looks fantastic when it goes down the stairs all lit up from inside, surging through the sea of people gathered to enjoy the festival. Still the locals of Kagurazaka are quite in love with their festival and I often see omikoshi-surfers, usually young women or children riding the omikoshi and cheering everyone up. Obviously I have never done it myself but it must be very difficult. This little boy I saw on the first night of the festival when I was just passing through was a true champ of the game! He has one foot each on the two main logs and nothing but the sole of his slippers to keep him from falling off. Small children usually sit down which is probably safer. It must be such a thrill though!
Yesterday saw several big and small festivals taking place around Tokyo, not least the Nezu Shrine festival I blogged about earlier. I had an hour free on Sunday night to visit the Kagurazaka Shrine festival which usually puts on a good show on its kagura, or stage. I missed the performances though, but I wasn’t too late to see the two fantastic looking omikoshi being carried around town. Having visited the same festivals several times over the years it is reassuring to see that nothing really changes. Most likely they omikoshi will be carried around the streets of the parishes of the locals for thousands of years to come!
Kagurazaka is a rather happening area in the eastern parts of Shinjuku ward and you can easily get there from the Kagurazaka, Ushigome-Kagurazaka or Iidabashi stations. It is usually liveliest on Sunday afternoons and weekday evenings, not least because the hundreds of restaurants and bars in the area.