Today and tomorrow is the peak of the week long Chichibuyo Matsuri, or the the Chichibu Night Festival. It is hands down the best winter festival in the Kanto area and possibly the last great festival of the year. I would love to go there but scheduling conflicts will keep me firmly put here in Tokyo. Chichibu is located north west of Tokyo in Saitama Prefecture, and a little too far to go just for a couple of hours in the evening. If you have all day today or tomorrow I really recommend heading up there though! You can read my posts about last year’s festival over here. The best way to get from Tokyo to Chichibu is by trains leaving from Ikebukuro. There are several lines and different train options depending on your budget and it is a fantastic combination trip to see both the evening festival and the autumn leaves in nearby Nagatoro.
Another great festival that also started out as a night festival is the Kurayami Matsuri in Tokyo’s south-western Chufu City. This festival is famous for it’s massive drums that require a crew of over twenty to operate and move around. These drums are so large that two or more persons usually stand on top of them! I took these photos of the much smaller children’s drums, as well as a couple of shots of the other famous thing in the Kurayami festival, the large and colorful mantou which are spun by the largest and strongest dancers of the community. You can see my other posts about the Kurayami festival here.
I spent the weekend at the Kitazawa Hachiman Shrine in Tokyo’s Shimokitzawa, one of the main attractions for me was the three performances of traditional Kagura, or Noh theatre. A young warrior and demon battling with swords and war hammers, quite a lot of action for being not theatre! The mostly younger audience were watching throughout the evening when three or four actors would perform in each set, accompanied by a trio of musicians from the very young to the quite old. The sets are quite long and the there are no written sheets of music so I have always wondered how they can remember their parts, especially since there are no melodies or consistent beats. I guess that just like everything else here in Japan it is a question of constant practice throughout years.
I couldn’t help but taking a photo of one young fan whose mother was kind enough to lift him up on to the side of the stage so that he could see what was happening in the performance. I am always fascinated that the masks looks so realistic although they are clearly nothing more than masks.
It’s that time of the year – festivals everywhere! So many in fact that I would need a couple of dozens of clones to have a chance at covering them all. Yesterday I visited the Kitazawa Hachiman Jinja in Tokyo’s hip Shimokitzawa district in Setagaya ward. Early in the day the shrine wasn’t that crowded but people kept coming and at night it was packed, dark and hot! People everywhere, the food stands doing their best in helping us navigate by smell alone. All in all, a great festival for everyone, but especially for kids and families. The shrine even had a novel way of handling the
amigo (curse you autocorrect!) maigo (lost children), between the shows on stage they would just take the kids up on stage and the happy parents would pick them up. Very efficient! You know it’s a good festival when the police’s main concern is to look after lost kids. The main event is today, so if you are in the city and want to see something traditional you’d better head over. It’s started already!
This is also the 1700th post of the blog. Not the 1700th ever posted (I go back and clean out the boring posts every now and then) but the 1700th of the posts online right now. I think I deserve a piece of cake. Stay with me for the 2000th post sometime in 2014!
More photos of the kids taking part in the traditional Yushima Tenjin festival near Tokyo’s Ueno district earlier this summer. It’s great seeing them as they do their bit to make sure the tradition continues and to learn the ways of the community. The kids are usually out first, early in the afternoon so that they can be safely out of the way when it is the adult’s turn. A lot of kids work hard for this and their reward is to watch their parents take part in the big omikoshi parades and of course to play and eat at the festival market stands. In the second photo two young ones walk past a pop gun stand. Police block most of the roads leading up to the shrine on festival days, doing their part in handing the neighborhood back to the control of the community. The one weekend where people are more important than cars. I wish every day could be festival day!