I took these photos after the rain we had during this year’s Shibuya festival let up. The omikoshi of the famous Dogenzaka neighborhood that traditionally starts in front of Shibuya station and goes up towards Shinsen station was out in force, the only concession to the rain being the plastic wrapped around the paper lanterns.
The origins of the name Dogenzaka is contested, but the slope can be named after an old temple that used to be located on the top of the hill. During the Edo period the road was surrounded by wild woods and fields with a clear view of Mount Fuji at the end. As Edo became Tokyo in the later part of the 19th century Dogenzaka became a market place for farmers selling their produce and Shibuya was developed as modern westernized town with electric street lights and everything. These days it is hard to believe that Dogenzaka was ever anything else than highly developed commercial district, but in fact there is a short row of five buildings that are almost 90 years old and survived several earthquakes and a World War. I will save that story for a later blog post though. There are a few interesting photos on this site of old historical Dogenzaka.
I was suprised to read that 758 people are officially registered as living in Dougenzaka, I think quite a good percentage of them joined in the Shibuya festival and helped carry their omikoshi, men, women and quite a lot of kids! They did a great job stopping the traffic while the omikoshi slowly passed.
Someday I would love to talk to someone who was born and lived all their life in Dogenzaka. They must have some incredible stories to tell!
Back at the end of September this year I visited the annual Fukuro matsuri being held every year at in Ikebukuro’s west area. It is a huge multi day festival where omikoshi teams from all neighborhoods in the area take part. I have blogged about it several times before but every year I see something different. As usual I arrived a little bit late, but just in time to see the omikoshi teams start their parade around pass the Ikebukuro Station West Exit and into the entertainment district to the south west of the station. There must be thousands of participants dressed in the traditional hanten, the short coats that you can see a lot of in these photos. I still haven’t gone through all the photos I took so there will probably be more to come!
Moving these omikoshi around is definitively a team effort. It would probably be much easier with about a dozen members but that would be defeating the purpose of this exercise, which is partly to create a group effort to help train the parishioners in pulling together, trusting each other and working as a group rather than a bunch of individuals. It is supposed to be difficult, and getting so many people to pull in one direction is very difficult indeed. The omikoshi took quite some time to finally stop, see-sawing it’s way through the crowd and requiring quite some effort from the leaders of the neighborhood to push it back when it got to close to the final position. At the end, the neighborhood leader will stand on one of the uma, the wooden blocks where the omikoshi is placed to rest, and guide it forward, close enough so that he is able to step up on it and signal the lowering of the omikoshi by clacking to wooden blocks together. It is great fun to see how well coordinated the different omikoshi teams around Tokyo are! The members of this one was very energetic!
The festival season is definitively over but this year’s was a good one. One of my favorite festivals from last season was the Kitazawahachimangu Matsuri (北澤八幡宮祭り) in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward. I followed one of the omikoshi belonging to the Yonchome neighborhood just to the south of the shrine. Not all of Yonchome are actually within the parish of this shrine but for this festival I think all of the neighborhood is invited, parishioners or not. They were the last team to brave the stairs and carry the more than a 1000kg heavy omikoshi up towards the shrine. There are actually two large stairs leading up to the shrine but the last one is just too steep so the omikoshi stay on the second stage. That stair is steep enough though and tourists and festival goers scattered over the rails to get out of the way as the omikoshi charged up. Other less adventurous (and probably smarter) photographers stood out of the way well in advance. Myself I made a less glamour but very nimble exit over the railings. More photos to come!