At the famous Kawagoe Matsuri that takes place in the middle of October each year in the city of Kawagoe just north of Tokyo, you can see dozens of different hayashi music teams. These teams man the stationary festival platforms around the city as well as ride along on the large dashi that are pulled around the city at night. Each team consists of a few drummers, one or two flutists and a dancer portraying one or more of several traditional mythological creatures or characters from folklore. The dancer that got the most attention at this year’s festival was probably the man who dressed like a white dog with a wild white mane. He was excellent at mimicking the movements of a dog and his costume looked fantastic. The only thing that could distract me were the four local children having their portrait taken with the festival lanterns. Very cute! As usual – click the photos to see them bigger and in better quality.
More photos from the grand Kawagoe Matsuri that took place a couple of weeks ago in the city of Kawaoge, just north of Tokyo in Saitama prefecture. The center point of the festival are the many dashi that get pulled around the city during the two day festival. Pulling them requires the strength of the entire neighborhood and to maneuver them safely require the skilled supervision of dozens of volunteers and staff members. I took these photos of one of the dashi as it was taking a break on the main street of the festival.
Not all festivals in and around Tokyo are traditional religious or spiritual, there are also quite a few history festivals that give us a chance to enjoy the old clothes, costumes, arms and armor of the times long gone. Several of these festivals take place around the last weekend of October, throughout Japan, not least being the big parade in Nihonbashi tomorrow morning. I saw these mounted samurai warriors at the Kanda Matsuri a few years ago, just as they were exercising their horses at a local elementary school before the main parade. The rather intense rain was forcing us all to keep out heads down though. If you are in Japan today or tomorrow, I recommend looking around to see if there are any history festivals near you!
I can’t get enough of the Kawagoe Matsuri which took place over the last weekend and easily one of the most accesible of the big “dashi” festivals here in Kanto. The big wagons are pulled around the town by the townspeople of the neighborhoods they represent, making frequent stops to greet temporary festival platforms on the town main street. One of the frequent guests at these platforms are the Shishinomai, the lion mask dancers whose bite to your head is supposed to be a bessing and good luck ritual for your child. It is great fun to watch these local kids get their head bitten, some wailing in terror and others posing for the photographs, like this little boy.
The most dedicated locals and the ones with special tasks dress up in wonderfully complicated and colorful costumes. A little hard to see at night but they really look great, especially these two fellas who posed for me. One new thing in this year’s festival was the owner of a strategically located second floor room opened it up for photographers (for a fee of course) to come and get an unusual angle on the festivals.
Only one year to wait for the next festival now! Already looking forward to it!