In the last days of the war there were many air raids over Tokyo, and in the biggest of them all most, if not all, of the Asakusa district in modern day Taito Ward was destroyed in the massive fires. In the years it took to rebuild the main temple, the Sensoji, a few new dances and festivals were put on as a treat for the survivors and those helping out in rebuilding the Asakusa. One of these were the Golden Dragon Dance (金龍の舞), where a troupe of musicians would perform on a cart while eight men whirled around an 18m long 88kg heavy dragon puppet. These days the dance lives on and is put on at the temple three times a year. At the Tokyo Jidai Matsuri, or festival of the ages, I saw it swirling around and entertaining the crowds and particularly the kids and the young ladies. I am sure plenty of photographers were very please as well as the heavy dragon head came rushing towards them! Asakusa, with the new lighting design at the Sensoji temple is one of the absolutely most popular tourist spots in the world!
Yesterday was the big Coming of Age Day, the “seijin no hi” (成人の日) which is a public holiday in Japan. It is dedicated to celebrate all the people who will be 20 years old this year and this is one of the most important highlights in any Japanese persons life. Usually cities and town have big ceremonies where they invite young people to take part of inspirational speeches and various ceremonies. It is also a good opportunity for young people to get back together with friends from school that they might not have seen for a year or so after leaving for college. People generally dress up and most people wear the kimono although a lot of men and some women prefer wearing suits or something more personalized. You might remember the tons of other posts I have done on this subject! I didn’t have much time this year so I just took a walk through Harajuku and Shibuya, passing the big Meiji Shrine and getting a few snap shots of the people there. This year it was quite crowded for some reason, but fewer celebrants than usual. Here’s one beauty carefully dedicating a ema plate to the shrine. I also found a ema with some funny wishes, the girl, Haruna, who wrote this (not the one I took a photo of!) hopes that she will become a hairdresser and cut everyone’s hair! She also wants to be bright as a light bulb and she wishes good luck in her studies, particularly her English studies. Good luck Haruna!
It’s the year of the dragon and of course most shrines are changing their ema (votive plates) to incorporate a dragon in the design. Most, but not all. Yesterday I visited Yasukuni Shrine in Kudanshita and saw their new ema, it’s quite stylish! Reading a few of the New Year Prayers on the plates I saw quite a few related to the natural disasters in March last year. Let’s hope for fever earthquakes in 2012!
As we are saying good bye to 2011 (and good riddance to that year I say!) we are welcoming 2012, the year of the Dragon according to the Chinese Zodiac. So everyone born in 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964 and so on can congratulate themselves on it being their year this coming year! Here’s the window display at Ginza’s famous Wako department store, showing various ways to write the kanji for the word dragon, 龍 or 辰, with one being the animal and the other mainly used for the zodiac sign. Now don’t take this as an excuse to rush out and get a tattoo! Sometimes old watches in China or Japan use the zodiac instead of numbers to tell the time, in this way, Dragon is between 7 and 9 in the morning.