Tokyobling's Blog

More Hanazono Shrine Festival – Shinjuku

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on June 20, 2014

More photos from one of my favorite festivals in Tokyo, the grand Hanazono Jinja Matsuri! While being a people’s festival rooted in the local neighborhoods, these days very few people actually live in the parish, so many of the participants are people working in the area or having businesses here, which makes for an interesting crowd. These photos show the main procession, the priests, the dashi (a mobile music platform) pulled by shrine maidens and last but not least several of the omikoshi taking part in the festival. These pass right in front of the famous Isetan departement store in the heart of Shinjuku. As you can see from the photos it gets very crowded! I am already looking forward to next year’s festival which will be much smaller but fun still!

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Hanazono Jinja Matsuri – Shinjuku Grand Festival

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on June 18, 2014

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!

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More Yushima Tenjin Matsuri

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on June 17, 2014

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!

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Ometaisai – Dashi and Hayashi

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on May 10, 2014

Here are some more photos from the annual Ometaisai, the grand festival of Ome City in western Tokyo, quite far from Shinjuku but connected to it on one long straight road called the Ome Kaido. The Ome Kaido doubles as the venue for the many large Dashi (山車) of the festival. These festival wagons are loaded with musicians and dancers and travel up and down the main street, stopping to do battle with the hayashi teams and other dashi they encounter along the way. The object of the battle is to throw the other team of their rhythm and in case of another dashi it is the winning team that gets right of way while the other team has to hold back. It is the job of all the members of the team to cheer the musicians of their own team on!

Naturally the people pulling these huge wagons get thirsty and there are plenty of spots ready for refreshments on the way, offering square wooden or lacquered boxes from which to drink sake, Japanese fermented rice spirits. In some cities and during some seasons on the corners of the box is prepared with a pinch of salt to help you through the heat of the day. You might recognize the label on the barrel of this hayashi group as being that of the famous Sawanoi Sake brewery that I blogged about late last year. They must have gotten a very good vintage because it tasted fantastic (I lucked out and was offered a box just for passing – and I obviously accepted).

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