I still haven’t shared 1% of the photos I took of the twice (or thrice actually) annual Sagimai dance ritual in Asakusa’s Sensoji temple earlier this year. As part of one of their three performances during the day (naturally I saw all three of them) they perform a procession as they retire back to the temple that is their base during the day. In this procession they are guided by local participants that acts other roles of the mythical reenactment. Someday I would love to see them perform or train in their home shrine, the famous Yasaka Shrine in Kyoto, one of my favorite shrines in the world.
One of the many colorful traditions to come out of the back streets of old Tokyo’s Yoshiwara district was the Kitsunemai (狐舞ひ), fox dancing. Yoshiwara was the premier red light district of Japan’s premier city that at the time, around the 18th century, was already the biggest city in the world with over a million people. Here courtesans, entertainers, poets and dancers rubbed shoulders (and more) with the nobles, merchants and warriors visiting from all over the country. If ancient Japan was anything like the present day Japan, the competition between the entertainment houses must have been fierce, and one way to drum up patrons was to put on a show in the streets, much like event marketing today! The Kitsunemai was one of the most popular shows, and it must have worked because the tradition of fox dancing lives on today. I saw this troupe of fox dancers at the Oiran parade in Asakusa a few months ago. Their leader is Yurinosuke of the Yoshiwara Kitsune Troupe (吉原狐 百合之介). I am not sure but it might be that this is the first troupe’s first or second public performance in over 70 years here in what used to be the Yoshiwara district! I hope they can keep the tradition alive!
I couldn’t help myself sneaking a photo of of this cat sleeping on the shoulder of one of the many people out to enjoy the huge Sanja Matsuri about a month ago. He seemed to be snoozing just well up there until “somebody” woke him up by getting too close with a noisy camera. I hope the men and women carrying the omikoshi didn’t mind not being the center of the attention for a few moments!
When Japan opened up to the Western world in the end of the 1860′s, it didn’t take long for western things, customs and manners to be adopted by the Japanese. One such thing was the concept of a bar. The first western style drinking bar opened up in Asakusa in 1880 and it is still there, Kamiya Bar, with three floors, a restaurant and even an outside bar, right on the street corner near the famous Kaminarimon gate. A lot of the hip young creatives would go to drink there until the war and the bar has featured in many novels and even movies. To tourists it is mostly known for the unique brand of brandy, the Denki Bran, a mix of all sorts of liquor creating quite a special taste. At 30 or 40% (there are two varieties) it can be difficult to drink straight but its also popular in different long drink and even cocktails. Even though it absolutely unique, a true Tokyo and Asakusa souvenir and quite nice, it is really dirt cheap. I can’t remember how much I paid for this bottle but it is almost criminally cheap! Absolutely the souvenir to take home if you have friends that are into unusual liquor.
Kamiya bar is easy to find. Just stand in front of the Kaminarimon, facing it. Turn about right, and walk along the road until you have the bar on your left, about 100m.
The name is a combination of the word for electricity and the word for brandy. In 1882 when the drink was invented electricity was the cool new thing and almost all major brands that started in this period of Japanese modernization had the word electric or electricity somewhere in their names.
And for no real reason I also post a cherry blossom photo!