Tokyobling's Blog

Onnamikoshi – Kitazawahachiman Matsuri

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on September 9, 2014

I spent last weekend in Tokyo’s Setagaya ward and the Shimokitazawa district to enjoy and take part in the grand Kitazawahachiman Matsuri, an autumn festival for all the neighborhoods in the parish. One of the highlights of the festival is always the moment when all the neighborhood omikoshi (portable shrines carrying the kami, or god-spirit), gather at the shrine to pay their respects. One neighborhood fields two different omikoshi, one regular for the neighborhood and one unusual Onnamikoshi, or an omikoshi only for women! For natural reasons these are very popular but few neighborhoods have the resources to field two omikoshi, so they either limit the regular omikoshi to men or mix it up both for men and women. Carrying an omikoshi is definitively a team effort, but the things that make some members of the team strong independently makes them weaker in the team, and the omikoshi often serves as a subtle reminder of this.

The Kitazawahachimangu (北澤八幡宮) is located on the top of a hill and the omikoshi has to be carried up some quite steep stairs. Usually the neighborhoods have one or more (sometimes dozens) of lantern carriers, usually the young women of the neighborhood, after which comes the omikoshi directed by the more experienced members of the group using fans and whistles to signal both visually and audibly to the people carrying the omikoshi. It is impossible for any one single person to direct the omikoshi and sometimes they get stuck, move in the wrong direction or lurch dangerously to the side despite the best effort or dozens of team members. It is a remarkable thing to watch!

Other shrines or festivals that are famous for having at least one onnamikoshi are the Yasukuni shrine and the Sanja Matsuri in Asakusa. More photos from this fantastic festival to come!

kitazwahachiman_2014_onnaomikoshi_9563

kitazwahachiman_2014_onnaomikoshi_9495

kitazwahachiman_2014_onnaomikoshi_9514

kitazwahachiman_2014_onnaomikoshi_9534

kitazwahachiman_2014_onnaomikoshi_9550

kitazwahachiman_2014_onnaomikoshi_9566

kitazwahachiman_2014_onnaomikoshi_9602

kitazwahachiman_2014_onnaomikoshi_9637

kitazwahachiman_2014_onnaomikoshi_9641

Kitazawa Hachimangu Matsuri – First Day

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on September 7, 2014

If you are in Tokyo today you can do worse that to visit one of the three festivals in either Kiba, Jiyugaoka or this one, in Shimokitazawa’s Kitazawa Hachimangu Grand Shrine. Yesterday was the opening, with religious ceremonies and plenty of performances of traditional (and some not so traditional) arts and dances at the shrine’s Kagura, or “holy stage”. We luckily dodged the rain that plagued last year’s festival and hopefully we’ll be as lucky today as well! The festival continues tonight with omikoshi, lots more people and lots more performances!

There were many visitors dressed in Yukata, the traditional summer dress here in Japan, and one of them even had the cutest uchiwa I have ever seen, like a little cat.

kitazawahachiman_2014_8855

kitazawahachiman_2014_8870

kitazawahachiman_2014_8873

kitazawahachiman_2014_9072

kitazawahachiman_2014_9083

kitazawahachiman_2014_9096

kitazawahachiman_2014_9109

Tonight – Kitazawa Hachimangu Festival

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on September 6, 2014

This weekend it the big weekend of the year for the lovely Kitazawa Hachimangu in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward. Two full days of omikoshi, festival food, lots of people and great traditional performances. Last year saw lots of rain but there were a few moments when the skies let up and the omikoshi, the portable shrines could do the traditional runs up and down the steep stairs in front of the shrine. These omikoshi are quite heavy and there is really no safe way to control them once they get started so it is usually best to stay well clear of them, as one of the members found out when he was getting to close to the railings and had to escape. Luckily no one was injured last year and I hope this year’s festival will be safe and fun! Here’s some of my photos from last year! Enjoy!

kitazawahachimangu_matsuri_9710

kitazawahachimangu_matsuri_9729

kitazawahachimangu_matsuri_9749

kitazawahachimangu_matsuri_9753

kitazawahachimangu_matsuri_9755

kitazawahachimangu_matsuri_9759

kitazawahachimangu_matsuri_9768

kitazawahachimangu_matsuri_9794

Mitaka Awadori – Hachamecharen

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on September 4, 2014

At the first evening of the annual Mitaka Awaodori festival last weekend I saw the fabulous Hachamecharen (波奴連) perform their set piece right at the end of the parade ground. Easily one of the best spots to enjoy this great festival. This group is based in western Tokyo’s Musashi Koganei. As with most local teams (teams that have strong roots in a location rather then being corporate based or traditional) their home turf performances are considerably larger than when they are “away”. If you were to see them at the annual Koganei Awaodori festivel you’d find there would be many more of them! Still, size is never a criteria in Awaodori, just spirit and dedication, and this group has both of that. I am already looking forward to next year’s Awaodori season even though this year’s season isn’t over yet.

mitakaren_awaodori_hachamecharen_5830

mitakaren_awaodori_hachamecharen_5834

mitakaren_awaodori_hachamecharen_5844

mitakaren_awaodori_hachamecharen_5852

mitakaren_awaodori_hachamecharen_5861

mitakaren_awaodori_hachamecharen_5868

mitakaren_awaodori_hachamecharen_5897

mitakaren_awaodori_hachamecharen_5899

mitakaren_awaodori_hachamecharen_5900

mitakaren_awaodori_hachamecharen_5927

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,523 other followers

%d bloggers like this: