Tokyobling's Blog

Walking Asakusa – Pet Pig

Posted in Animals, People, Places by tokyobling on August 26, 2014

Tokyo is one of the most crowded capitals on Earth but in the middle of it all there is still opportunities to see a little bit of non-human nature. A while ago I was walking through Tokyo’s famous Asakusa district and saw these pets taking their owners for a walk through the city. Cats are commonplace, both in trams and roaming the streets on their own, seeing a pig though, was the first for me! A few foreign tourists tried to communicate with the pig but he was incredibly focused on the food his owner was enjoying.

Apart from pets there is a surprising amount of wildlife in the city. Even in the most central parts we have Palm Civets, Raccoons and cats. In the outskirts we have foxes, rabbits, kites and eagles and still within city limits but in the most remote areas we have bears, badgers and boars!

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Mitamamatsuri at Yasukuni Shrine – Event

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on July 14, 2014

Yesterday I rushed through one of my favorite festivals here in Tokyo, the massive Mitamamatsuri at the Yasukuni Shrine. Yesterday was the start of the four day event that goes on until Wednesday. Since it was a Sunday there were more people than I have ever seen at this festival before, but the rest of festival should not be so crowded. If you are in Tokyo today or this week, you really should go!

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Ometaisai People – Western Tokyo

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on June 29, 2014

The more isolated the town is, in general the more local the festival gets. The grand Ometaisai in the little city of Ome in western Tokyo is a good example of a festival that is for and by the local people living in the community.

One a little peculiar thing with this festival is the massively oversized pair of hyoshigi (拍子木), two wooden blocks tied together with a rope. The blocks are banged together to make a simple and effective signal able to carry over the noise of the festival. Usually they are much smaller, but in Ome the ones used are positively huge. There are a few festivals in central Tokyo that also uses these kind of large hyoshigi. The head of the neighborhood has to be really careful not to catch his finger while clapping!

Each neighborhood team fields a slightly different troupe, some of them have groups of young girls and sometimes boys dressed as little geisha, and they all wear differently colored happi, the short colorful coat worn by all participants in a festival. I especially liked the yellow happi of the people of Hinatawada (日向和田) a few kilometers down the road from Ome Station. Their happi features a matoi, one of my favorite Japanese objects! It is a tasseled pole used traditionally by firefighters from all over the country.

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Battling Dashi – Ometaisai

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on June 26, 2014

In Japan there are many kinds of festivals and there a dozens of ways to celebrate them. One of the more common ways is by having individual neighborhoods in the city or the parish to field their own dashi (山車), which are mobile, often huge, mini-shrines. Some are small hand pulled affairs barely large enough to contain a couple of kids on drums while others are massive things wheels that are almost two meters tall, engines, and place for a full traditional orchestra! The musicians are part of hayashi-troupes, with percussion, flutes and dancers they entertain the audience and please both Gods and spirits with their loud and lively music. The dashi are often involved in “battles” when they pass other dash on a parade, and even when they pass special mini stages or shrine they will offer battle with them, trying to throw the others off their rhythm or style.

I took these photos of the festival and the dashi at the annual Ometaisai, Ome Grand Festival, in early May. Another fun detail most people tend to notice is the traditional play with masks that in this ago mass consumerism takes the form of neat little plastic masks for kids and youngsters. There are lots of characters to chose from, traditional to new!

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