Tokyobling's Blog

Kagurazaka Festival 2014 – Akagi Shrine

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on September 26, 2014

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!

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Akagi Shrine Festival – Kagurazaka

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on September 22, 2014

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.

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Nezu Shrine Festival – Today

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on September 21, 2014

The season for late summer festivals are not over yet! If you are in Tokyo today I recommend heading over to the Nezu Shrine right on the edge of Bunkyo Ward, not far from Ueno. It has a little bit of everything, performances, omikoshi, yatai (food and games stands) and ceremonies. Lots of fun for any age! I especially enjoy the all-female taiko drummers, whom also performed twice yesterday.

Yesterday’s festival was punctuated by a bit of rain but today looks like it will be drier. I took these photos during last year’s festival when the weather was fantastic.

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Bonodori Dance at Hikawa Shrine – Akasaka

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on September 18, 2014

I hadn’t been to many bonodori festivals this summer so I was happy to find one scheduled for the final night of the large Hikawa Shrine festival in Tokyo’s Minato Ward. The bonodori is a rather complicated dance with music that makes it sound very like Sunday matinee movie from the late 1940s. It takes place around a raised podium where a taiko drummer helps keep the rhythm and it is usually performed in the traditional summer dress of Japan, the yukata (think kimono light). In a land with many dances and tradition thousands of years old it is good to see that new traditions are still slowly being grown, like this kind of dance. I imagine people in 1000 years will be dancing this to the exact same music and with the same movements as we do today.

As many bonodori festivals I have been to, this must surely be the most perfect. The space is not too large, not too small, and above all, it takes place under the trees! The red lanterns combine with the canopy of leaves to create a once in a lifetime perfect “room” for the dance to take place. I might be the only one to notice, but such perfection leaves me in tears these days. When I imagine the ideal bonodori location, this was it. I just didn’t know it really existed. I know bonodori ranks very low on the list of exciting festivals to see or experience, even for local Japanese, but if you are into it, this is the one to visit. It usually starts on the Sunday of the festival at 1830, but music starts much earlier, usually at 17300, and the drummers are always there early to warm up.

The Hikawa Shrine (氷川神社) in Minato Ward (there are hundreds all over Japan) is easily accessible from Akasaka, Tameikesanno, Nogizaka, Roppongi or Roppongi Ichome stations.

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