More photos from the first of the three nights of the massive buddhist Oeshiki ceremony in memory of saint Nichiren in Tokyo’s Ikegami district. Followers of the Nichiren buddhist sect from all over Japan (and I think I spotted a few foreign monks as well) gather to celebrate at the sect’s main temple, the Ikegami Honmonji temple. The festival is famous for the matoi dancers which are usually reserved for firefighters, and the huge mando, the festive and lit up miniature temples carried or pulled in the parade that winds its way through town until it reaches the main temple building. The first night is dedicated mostly to local teams and youth teams and they don’t actually enter the temple grounds. I followed the parade around and took these photos of the probably very fit matoi dancers. The temple itself is nearly deserted compared to what it will look like the next evening. The last night of the ceremony was yesterday, but if you are in Tokyo during early November there is another Oeshiki in Zoshigaya near Ikebukuro that is not as crowded but just as intense. Enjoy!
Last night was the first of the three day long Oeshiki ceremony at Tokyo’s Ikegami Honmonji temple. The history behind this unique and rare buddhist festival is complicated but I did my best to explain it a little in this post from last year. The first night is merely a warm up, lots of people still turn up and the yatai (street vendors) are out in force! Most teams are busy preparing for the coming two days of dancing, chanting and manhandling the huge matoi poles through the streets of Ikegami. I caught one group practicing right next to the pagoda at the temple, but a few youth groups were out to give the coming generation a chance to get some live practice! Some of these matoi poles can be very heavy, I have heard of some that were as heavy as 80kg but no one can handle something like that for more than a few seconds I think. One of the teams had a great trio of wooden toy dogs all lit up and decorated following them around. Very popular with the crowd! The main ceremony takes place tonight and tomorrow night so there’s is still a chance to get down to Ota Ward and enjoy! This festival is actually very dark, the photos make it look all bright and clear but in reality it is much darker than the it looks like based on these photos. You have to go there and see for yourself!
If you’re in Tokyo for the three day weekend you can do much worse than visiting one of the coolest festivals in town – the Oeshiki ceremony at Ikegami’s Honmonji temple. It is chock full of market stalls, buddhist ceremonies, matoi dancers (as you can see in my photos) and chanting, drumming, fluting and everything else that is great about Japan’s (rare) buddhist festivals. It’s is in Tokyo’s southern Ota ward and it’s easy to get there on the Tokyu Ikegami Line, to Ikegami station from Gotanda station on the JR Yamanote line. The processions take place all over town and culminates right in front of the station, but you can get a good look at it basically anywhere along the routes as it can get very crowded up at the temple. Some people aren’t too fond of the stairs leading up to it either. Enjoy!
One of the most tourist friendly cities in Japan is Nara, famous for its many deers, huge parks, massive temples and last but certainly not least, the Daibutsu, the big Buddha statue at the Todaiji temple. The main temple building was constructed in the 8th century A.D., but it has been rebuilt twice du to fires. The present structure is from 1709 and it was the largest wooden building in the world until 1998. Unfortunately none of these photos gives any hint of how large the statue really is, but at 15m he is similar in height to a normal four storey building. Next time I will make sure I have enough time there to get some decent photos!