A couple of weeks ago saw the grand Hanazono Jinja festival in Tokyo’s capital, Shinjuku. The festival centers on the Hanazono Shrine almost hidden behind a few tall buildings in Kabukicho. This year was the grand festival in which the main omikoshi of the shrine gets taken out accompanied by a special dashi or festival wagon pulled by a team of the stronger miko, shrine maidens. The dashi is staffed by a kids and adults performing the traditional hayashi music style so famous in Japanese festivals. While all this is going on there are also multiple omikoshi doing the rounds of the parish, and even a few kid sized versions for the smaller members of the community. This is also one of the more crowded festivals of Tokyo and gets a lot of attention in media and tourist information centers. Now, this area of Shinjuku is not the most middle class place to hang out, so the festival can be a little rougher around the edges, drawing a wilder crowd than most festivals. Still there are plenty of families and kids taking part and since this is Japan, it is very safe as long as you stay away from the massive omikoshi!
The first four photos show one of the neighborhood omikoshi just on the edge of Shinjuku’s Golden Gai!
One of the great spring festivals of Tokyo, the Yushima Tenjin Matsuri was as good as usual this year too. I didn’t have much time to spend on it, but I managed to be there for when the omikoshi entered the shrine for the end of the first day’s ceremonies. The omikoshi of this shrine is quite tall and the historical bronze tori (the gate at the front of every shrine, this one being the oldest bronze tori in existence in Tokyo) is quite short making for an interesting moment when the omikoshi is carefully maneuvered into the shrine grounds. Clearing the tori always elicits a cheer from the audience of festival goers!
The path from the tori to the main shrine is usually lined with all kinds of yatai, selling food, drinks and games to adults and kids. One of the most popular is the classic “kingyosuku” or Goldfish Rescue where kids try to fish as many goldfish as possible from a tub of water using a thin piece of paper. I can never understand how they do it. However some parents are not too fond of the idea of a yearly increase of live goldfish so the alternative game of Rubber Ball Rescue is usually even more popular. Fish a certain number of balls from a tub of water. Not as challenging but the kids love picking out their favorite balls. If you have kids and visit a Japanese festival, this might be the best game you can have them try out as the owners of the stands never let a kid go home empty handed!