Tokyobling's Blog

Ometaisai People – Western Tokyo

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on June 29, 2014

The more isolated the town is, in general the more local the festival gets. The grand Ometaisai in the little city of Ome in western Tokyo is a good example of a festival that is for and by the local people living in the community.

One a little peculiar thing with this festival is the massively oversized pair of hyoshigi (拍子木), two wooden blocks tied together with a rope. The blocks are banged together to make a simple and effective signal able to carry over the noise of the festival. Usually they are much smaller, but in Ome the ones used are positively huge. There are a few festivals in central Tokyo that also uses these kind of large hyoshigi. The head of the neighborhood has to be really careful not to catch his finger while clapping!

Each neighborhood team fields a slightly different troupe, some of them have groups of young girls and sometimes boys dressed as little geisha, and they all wear differently colored happi, the short colorful coat worn by all participants in a festival. I especially liked the yellow happi of the people of Hinatawada (日向和田) a few kilometers down the road from Ome Station. Their happi features a matoi, one of my favorite Japanese objects! It is a tasseled pole used traditionally by firefighters from all over the country.

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Battling Dashi – Ometaisai

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on June 26, 2014

In Japan there are many kinds of festivals and there a dozens of ways to celebrate them. One of the more common ways is by having individual neighborhoods in the city or the parish to field their own dashi (山車), which are mobile, often huge, mini-shrines. Some are small hand pulled affairs barely large enough to contain a couple of kids on drums while others are massive things wheels that are almost two meters tall, engines, and place for a full traditional orchestra! The musicians are part of hayashi-troupes, with percussion, flutes and dancers they entertain the audience and please both Gods and spirits with their loud and lively music. The dashi are often involved in “battles” when they pass other dash on a parade, and even when they pass special mini stages or shrine they will offer battle with them, trying to throw the others off their rhythm or style.

I took these photos of the festival and the dashi at the annual Ometaisai, Ome Grand Festival, in early May. Another fun detail most people tend to notice is the traditional play with masks that in this ago mass consumerism takes the form of neat little plastic masks for kids and youngsters. There are lots of characters to chose from, traditional to new!

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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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Yoshiwara Gion – Shizuoka Prefecture

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on June 15, 2014

Today is the grande finale of the lovely Yoshiwara Gion Matsuri in Shizuoka Prefecture’s Fuji City. On the final day the main omikoshi of the local shrine will be handed over from neighborhood to neighborhood and afterwards the dashi parade starts up on the Yoshiwara main street as the different neighborhoods does their best to outperform the other’s in a friendly battle!

If you are in Shizuoka Prefecture today there really is no excuse to miss this once in a year event!

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