This year too I was lucky to catch the geisha participation at the annual Hachioji festival in western Tokyo’s Hachioji City. This year they didn’t limit themselves to the parade but also had a wagon of their own, pulled by supporters while the geisha inside performed beautifully with singing, the stringed traditional shamisen, flutes and drums. One day I hope to be able to afford a proper night out with these ladies! The stories they could tell would make this japanophiles heart burst!
Hachioji City is often overlooked by many people living in the center of Tokyo but it is more densely populated than central London and has both a vibrant city center and quite a lot of nature. It might not be worth a visit for the casual Tourist but if you spend any length of time in Tokyo I recommend going there, especially if you have the opportunity to see one of their festivals! Hachioji is easily reached by the central JR Chuo Line from Tokyo or Shinjuku stations.
A couple of weeks ago I saw these two wonderfully dressed up girls taking part in the annual oiran parade in Tokyo’s Asakusa district. You might remember my post about the much bigger oiran parade in Kitashinagawa last year, where I wrote more about the history of the oiran women of old Edo. These girls took on the part of maids to the older oiran and the parade is meant to reenact the oiran ritual of going out to visit a customer at a restaurant. Real oiran (which were the predecessor of the much more famous geisha) haven’t been seen on the streets of Edo (or Tokyo) since the 18th century and even then they were considered old fashioned.
These two maids did great in the cold weather and intense sun of this unusually sunny day. It is very difficult to take good photos when there is too much or too little light though! I hope you don’t mind.
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!