Not having a dog myself I am always amazed by how difficult dogs are to photograph. Cats, humans, monkeys, even foxes, are comparatively easy. They will look at anyone getting their attention whereas dogs will only focus on their owner. I stopped a man out walking his cute little dog at the Sanja Matsuri, the huge festival in Asakusa, as I had to get some photos of the great little festival gear. As much as the owner tried the dog just would not look anywhere else. Well, at least the old saying “man’s best friend” is true. If I ever get lonely I will get a dog, and dress him up like this!
There’s festivals, and then there’s The Festival with a capital F, the biggest and happiest traditional festival in Japan is the massive Sanja Matsuri held in Tokyo’s historic Asakusa district every year. Millions of people and tens of thousands of omikoshi carriers make this the place to be if you are into festivals. I was going over this year’s Sanja Matsuri photos when I found these that illustrate well the “scrum” of the omikoshi, how people are jostling, arguing, joking and teasing their way into the omikoshi with sometimes several hundred members per omikoshi (portable shrine)! Quite different from more local festivals in smaller villages and cities where there’s usually just enough people to get by. And there’s not one of these omikoshi, there’s hundreds of them parading around. It’s easy to get lost in taking photos and ending up cornered between to buildings in the middle of the scrum unable to get out. I saw this parade of omikoshi headed by musicians and after them a mostly female omikoshi with some lovely looking ladies! Look at the last few photos to get an idea of the amount of people, and then imagine the whole city looking like this, several blocks in every direction! Sanja Matsuri is so big I have several friends who refuse to go there because of the crowds, but I don’t mind. Can’t wait for next year’s Sanja festival!
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 weekend saw one of the biggest festivals in Japan, Asakusa’s famous Sanja Matsuri. From Friday to Sunday, early morning to late night hundreds of omikoshi, portable shrines, criss cross the streets of Asakusa carried by tens of thousands of people. It’s one of these once in a life time spectacles! Although Asakusa is mostly famous for the huge buddhist temple there, there is also a smaller shrine called Asakusa Jinja just next to it, and some of the omikoshi representing the different neighborhoods make a point of visiting it. I followed the noise and the chanting of one omikoshi to reach the shrine. It turned out I was just in time to catch the last of the Nouraku plays, an ancient Japanese art form that has survived the millennia basically unchanged. More photos of that to come later!