Every year I visit the huge Sanja matsuri, or festival, in Tokyo’s Asakusa area I am sure to catch at least one new animal participant! So far I have seen dogs, marmots, cats, pigs, parrots and even monkeys. This year I saw this wonderfully well dressed little dog, loving the attention and the treats he was getting from the crowds that formed around him.
The tiny paper fan tucked into his obi at the back is a perfect detail. Sorry for the poor picture quality though, the light had almost completely disappeared when I took these and the crowds of people were blocking out what little light came from shops and street lights. If you want to see more festival styled animals, please see this dog here or these cats here and here!
Sanjamatsuri, the biggest festival in Japan, that took place a month ago is naturally famous for its crowded streets and huge amounts of people (nearly two million visitors on the main two days). One of the peaks of the festival is when the neighborhood omikoshi are brought up to greet the big Sensoji temple. As close to the stairs as possible, where dozens of police officers work hard to maintain orders and hundreds of volunteers do their best to direct the over one hundred omikoshi to enter the temple grounds, receive their blessing and exit as quickly as possible. You can’t tell from these photos, but behind the temple there is a several hours long traffic jam as different omikoshi converge on their routes to the temple and the neighboring Asakusa shrine. I managed to get relatively close to the main action and got these photos of the a few omikoshi teams approaching the temple. Some of the omikoshi are special children’s omikoshi, staffed only by kids. There are even different omikoshi for different age groups and I caught one of the tiniest omikoshi in the entire festival in a couple of photos. Too cute for words!
This is how you build a homogenous, well functioning society based on shared experiences, shared values and above all, participation.
The last day of the massive Sanja Matsuri in Tokyo’s Asakusa district is when they bring out the big three omikoshi of the shrine itself. The different neighborhood groups take turns handling them and competition for the best spots get quite fierce. I am always surprised there aren’t more injuries when I see these portable shrines coming down the streets.
The original four omikoshi, dating back to the early 17th century were lost in the firebombings of the war, but three of them has since been replaced by more modern omikoshi about 60 years ago. The fourth omikoshi still hasn’t been replaced, and maybe it never will. This omikoshi is exactly 1000kg heavy but the others are slightly heavier still.
The police did their best in protecting both participants and tourists, but sometimes they were too busy saving themselves. Even viewed from a distance the ceremony is exciting as you are never quite sure where the omikoshi is heading. I am already looking forward to next year’s big festival!
Yesterday I visited the massive Sanja Matsuri (三社祭) and enjoyed a full day of festival fun. The weather was good (too good in fact, I look like a well cooked lobster right now) and the sun fierce. There are lots of different things going on all over the festival area that covers dozens of city blocks in all directions from the Sensoji temple area, the heart of the festival. I took these photos of a just very few of the over one hundred omikoshi teams that crisscrosses the streets of Asakusa for the duration of the festival.
The main impression of this year’s festival was the huge number of foreign tourists I saw! Just comparing with last year’s festival the number of foreigners must have increased at least two, maybe even three fold. I heard Chinese, Korean and Thai as often as I heard Japanese on streets, in addition to French, German and plenty of English! It looks like my prediction from earlier was correct: most foreign tourists in Tokyo this weekend must have been at this festival.
Today is the final day of the festival and also the peak, everything will get even more crowded and even more crazy! More photos to come!