One of the first orders of the day on any matsuri or festival day is to make sure the kids are doing their part for the communtiy and the local gods! Most festivals have special teams of volunteers gather up the local children and have them carry the kid sized omikoshi or portable shrines around the area. This way the kids can learn about the community and the rituals and traditions that binds it together while learning the dress, the different jobs and how to work together to carry the heavy omikoshi succesfully on their shoulders. Being kids though, it is hard to keep from getting distracted once you pass the colorful street vendors, the yatai, selling food, candy, drink, toy and offering games! All of these kids did great and none broke rank! The head of the neighborhood committee usually keeps the costumes and uniforms prepared for when they are needed and pass them out to kids taking part, some of the coats are older than others and you sometimes see quite a variety in styles and colors, but usually all with the same traditional neighborhood marks: the older the neighborhood, the longer the traditions! If you visit a festival in Japan and want to see the kid’s omikoshi it is usually best to be out early, as the kids rituals are usually performed well before it is time for the adult to come out and play! It is always fun to take these kind of photos, the kids are all adorable!
I don’t know about your country, but just sometimes even amateur folk dance troupes get the rock star treatment! It happened at the end of the Awaodori festival in Tokyo’s Shimokitzawa district last weekend, the Shinoburen from Koenji performed their set piece on barely enough ground to walk on, let alone dance. There were just so many people crowded around to catch the set. People cheered, clapped and shouted encouragement to the dancers as they braved near record levels of heat to entertain us. It must be great to be the center of all that love and energy! If you have ever seen an Awaodori street performance like this you will know what I mean when I say that I was enjoying the buzz from an Awodori high! Granted, Shinoburen is one of the bigger and more famous teams in Tokyo, but I dare say they have some of the most dedicated fans! I really can’t wait for the huge Koenji festival in Tokyo at the end of this month. Just a few more days to go…!
This weekend we saw some of the highest temperatures we have seen in Tokyo for many years. At least I can’t remember any weekend that has been hotter than this. Other parts of Japan were hotter! Walking outside in these temperatures is like walking into a wall of heat. The air inside your clothes is cooler than the air outside so you can actually feel the heat as you walk around. And then when the heat reaches your skin the sweat starts running…! All in all, not the best conditions for a two hour dance parade! Still, the annual and fantastic Awaodori festival in Tokyo’s Shimokitazawa town took place as usual, with several teams braving the heat to perform the traditional dance and music from the southern Tokushima prefecture. The heat had drained the energy levels of several participants but still they did fantastically, especially the famous Shinoburen (忍連), whom I have blogged about before here and here. These guys are really dedicated. If you visit the huge Awaodori festival in Koenji at the end of this month you might be lucky enough to see them perform!
I hope you are not getting bored with the Mitama festival photos! I was there today as well and took these photos. It was incredibly crowded, the worst yet, but still lots of fun and much easier to walk now that the ground had dried up from yesterday’s afternoon squalls. I took a lot of snaps of people, just because I find that there is no other festival in Japan with this variety of visitors, young and old from all walks of life. The first photo is a mix of nine photos, all of which looked fun together but none worth posting on itself. Still, this was the only way I could make sense of the vast sea of people as I entered the festival grounds.
The thing that makes mitama matsuri most famous are the lanterns, the big ones go for 12 000 yen and the small ones for 3000 yen, and just as last year the top sponsor was Mr Sato who on his own must have spent a few million yen on making sure the festival keeps going strong! I don’t think I’ll ever be able to match him, but I might spring for a small lantern next year, a Tokyobling lantern in the shrine grounds! That would be blogworthy. Officially the lanterns are there to honor the lost souls of the old wars, but there is nothing sad or gloomy about this festival!