It’s not very new anymore but I still make a point to go up to the top floor every time I pass, the new tourist information building in front of Asakusa’s famous Kaminarimon, the entrance gate to the huge Sensoji temple. I took these photos at the Sanja festival earlier this month, just as the dozens of omikoshi, portable shrines, leave the temple through the main street and spill out on the big scramble street crossing. It was fun to see it all from above, as I have been down there in the middle of it all many times, trying not to get trampled by the rickshaw pullers, the busses, the police cars and the omikoshi! I think it was the first time I ever saw an omikoshi from above like this.
The semi-annual matsuri, or festival, of the grand Kanda shrine (神田明神) is one of Tokyo’s largest in terms of physical area covered. The whole procession takes over nine hours of walking in from Ochanomizu station in the northwest to far beyond Sutengu in the south east and it goes on for several days. It is similar in style to the Sanno Matsuri but with over 200 omikoshi attracting thousands of participants. I spent my Saturday at the festival, together with the pouring rain from morning all until morning the next day. When I took these photos in front of the Suitengu shrine the procession had already been walking for seven hours and must have thoroughly soaked. Luckily the peak of the festival which took place they day after saw fantastic weather, hot and sunny. I was out of town though so I missed it! Let’s hope that the weather is better next time around, in May 2015.
One of the things I always get asked when taking foreigners on their first trip around Tokyo is the numbers and figures put up on all police boxes around the city. I am sure you have seen them if you have been in Tokyo, the traffic accident reports of the previous day. Here is a larger “monument” in Hibiya showing the number of fatalities in traffic accidents in the metropolitan area the day before, zero. The last photo is from the side of a police box (a koban) in Omotesando, showing the fairly average numbers of zero fatalities and 120 injuries. Not bad considering that the city has almost 13 million residents and twice that again during the daytime. Japanese are big on reducing traffic accidents and several times a year they have special traffic accident awareness weeks where volunteers do their best to make people act more safely in traffic.
I have a weak spot for mounted police, so please excuse me for indulging myself and posting these photos of a very handsome pair that I saw in Kyoto late last summer. Since there is no need in Japan for mounted police in live situations (riots or crowd control) they are used in purely ceremonial functions as part of the Imperial honor guards. Every time I see them my heart jumps a little!