Last night saw the start of the fantastic Kagurazaka Awaodori Festival, the third day in four day Kagurazaka Matsuri. The last day is tonight with the kid’s teams performing from 1800 to 1900 and then the adult’s teams from 1900 to 2100. You can get to Kagurazaka from either Iidabashi station, Ushigome Kagurazaka or Kagurazaka stations. The further up you go on the street the fewer people you are likely to have to fight for a good spot with, so if it seems to crowded down hill just keep walking to the second area of the festival!
Last night I took these photos of the always fantastic Tenguren and their little Kotenguren kids. I can’t get enough of this team! Even though Awaodori dance is traditionally from Tokushima Prefecture there are dozens of great teams here in Tokyo!
On the beautiful Sunday morning walk through the northwestern end of Tokyo’s Shinjuku ward I visited Akagi Shrine, in the famous Kagurazaka district. I have blogged about this beautiful and very modern looking shrine before, but this is the first time I have seen it covered in snow. I have also visited it just before dawn on the New Year’s Day of 2013, and I have several posts about the fabulous Akagi Shrine festival held in September every year (here, here, here, here and a gorgeous shrine dancer here).
This branch shrine here in Kagurazaka is a tributary of the three main Akagi Shrines in Gunma Prefecture’s Akagiyama. It was originally constructed in 1300 in modern day Ushigome, just a short distance from where it was transferred to in 1555. The original 1300 building burned down in 1842 and the reconstructed shrine was again destroyed in the bombing raids of 1945. It was rebuilt again in 1951, as a kindergarten which was closed in 2009 and the task or redesigning the shrine minus the kindergarten but with attached apartments and a cafe gallery went to the famous architect Kengo Kuma in 2010. The level of the shrine was raised drastically in the 2010 rebuilding and now it has a set of very impressive stone stairs leading up the smaller shrine building. Underneath this are storage areas, garages and offices. Even before 2010 the shrine was located right on top of Kagurazaka hill but now it stands even higher.
As I walked up the steep stairs I could already see people busy shoveling snow from the shrine grounds, and people were again busy in the street leading up the front of the shrine. The white of the snow, the red of the shrine and the blue of the skies made it a wonderfully beautiful sight!
Festival seasons there are just too many places to go and events to attend. I passed Kagurazaka on the last evening of the Akagi Shrine festival and took these photos of the stalls around the shrine and the omikoshi of the local community. It was one of the first cool evenings since the start of summer but I think it is too early to call the end of summer yet! There are still a few festivals around to enjoy. Akagi shrine, which I have posted about a couple of times before is one of the most modern shrines in Japan, well worth a visit if you are into modern architecture.
This weekend was very intense for festival lovers here in Tokyo, there were far too many festivals and events to be able to attend even a few of them, I always feel that the last weekend of July here in Tokyo has enough events crammed in to last most other cities a whole year! Me being the essential Awaodori super fan, I spent the weekend in Tokyo’s Kagurazaka district, where there were big Awaodori parades on both Friday and Saturday. Sadly though, the parade on Saturday was cancelled due to a sudden and rather massive thunderstorm. Awaodori dancers are generally hard as nails when it comes to weather, remember the festival that was drenched by a typhoon a couple of years back? But the audience generally isn’t, so after 45 minutes of braving the elements they gave up and called it a night.
I took these photos on the Friday performance of the Tsutsujiren, whose full name is Shinjukukuyakushotsutsujiren (新宿区役所つつじ連). Quite a mouth full! They were founded in 1988 and as the name tells us, is the official Awaodori team of the Shinjuku Ward Office! I have a soft spot for public workers taking part in these festivals, to me it is pure dedication! I can’t imagine the city office in my home town back in Europe doing something like this! The team has an especially energetic group of otoko odori, the male (and in the case of some teams sometimes female) dancers with the funny headscarves, these guys really knew how to give it their best!