Yesterday was the first of the two Torinochi market days on the calendar for this year. I had a lot of work today and couldn’t go myself but here are some photos that I took last year at the Hanazono Shrine in Shinjuku. Let me quote myself about the meaning and background of the Torinoichi tradition:
“November the 10th is the first of the annual Torinohi, two or three days in November when traditional tornoichi markets are being held in many shrines and temples throughout Japan. The fact that both religions, shinto and buddhism, celebrate this tradition is interesting, the only difference between them is their reason for doing it. In all places the main object is to trade in the traditional kumade (熊手, or bear’s hand) decoration pieces, sometimes as small as 500 yen coin, and sometimes big enough to cover a small wall, there are all kinds of kumade and all the traders take great pride in displaying as much of their wares as possible. The basic form of the kumade comes from the humble garden rake, and the kumade is said to symbolize the raking in of health, happiness and health. It is traditional for local business to buy one each year to display in their shops. Whatever your belief is, the magic of the kumade actually works as it attracts customers. I personally always stop in front of a shop displaying a good kumade, giving the proprietor of the shop a chance to wheel me in and make a sale. The tradition is always buy a larger kumade than last year, so if you plan on following the tradition I would recommend starting out as small as possible, even though the sly tradesmen will always try to sell you their biggest!”
There is one more Torinoichi this year and I hope to catch it!
One of my favorite things to do on any festival is to check out the local Hayashi teams, and especially the dancers in masks and costumes. Some teams are made up of locals, others are professional teams that service many festivals and events in a prefecture or city or neighborhood. Each dancer is associated with a certain costume and mask and the dance and movements are unique to each “character”. I have a few favorite characters but I won’t say which! One of the hayashi dancers I saw at the grand Kawagoe Matsuri had her little boy up on stage who enjoyed doing his best to keep the audience and musicians in high spirit. Don’t worry, lots of people were keeping an eye on him and every time he got too close to going over the rail they would grab him by his pants and pull him back. Very funny to watch!
Every time I visit a festival in Kawagoe City just north of Tokyo I make a point of seeing the ladder acrobatics performance by the local firefighters, one of my favorite teams. This year’s Kawagoe Matsuri had perfect weather for ladder acrobatics, not windy at all and no rain at all. Thanks to that they put on a great show with even the most difficult of positions. The stark difference between the firefighters lit by other people’s camera flashes and ambient street lighting contrasted with the pictch black night sky was pretty effective!
At the Sanja Matsuri this year I was in time to catch a performance by the Furisodesan, a group of performers in the style of geisha, dancing and entertaining at the kagura (shrine stage) of the Asakusa Shrine just next to the famous Sensoji temple. The beautiful young women visit restaurants and entertainment houses to perform for the clients but sometimes they also give performances for the public, like on this festival. They were certainly hugely popular with the crowds at this sunny festival day!