If there is one thing I love the Japanese for it is the ability to keep their traditions alive! Here’s something I came across for the first time at the Kappabashi Tanabata festival on last weekend, near Tokyo’s Asakusa district. A man was challenging anyone for a game of Touhachiken (東八拳), a traditional game of reflect, coordination and wits that’s been practiced at least since the Edo period of pre-modern Japan. The table set up is very traditional and absolutely gorgeous – it is so typically Japanese to design and craft something like this for a simple game of gestures! The wooden blocks are score markers and the first one to win three games in a row is the winner. It is similar to the western “Pat-a-cake” game but much more complicated. The man was obviously a pro but even then he lost a couple of times to the little girl! The boys who were watching didn’t dare try it out though. If I ever meet someone who knows this game I will have to take a lesson! Here’s a good video of the game in action with traditional music accompanying them.
Yesterday was tanabata festival again, but this time according to the lujar calendar. I decided to get an early start and head up to Sayama City in Saitama prefecture just north of Tokyo and a nice one hour trin journey from where I live. It was my first time in Sayama although I have spent a lot of time in nearby Iruma City. So to get plenty of time for sightseeing I decided to spend the entire day of the festival from noon to nine. What I didn’t consider though, was the intensity of the Saitama summer! Most of Saitama is a few degrees warmer than Tokyo so I left a cloudy 32 degrees Tokyo and spent about an hour in the blazing sun with no protection. It doesn’t happen often, but about once a year I forget to be careful. I managed to take shelter in an air conditioned cafe barely minutes from the inevitable heat stroke. I consider myself quite fit but even so, someone who spent most of his formative years near the Arctic Circle, should be really careful in the Japanese summer.
So instead of coming home with cool photos of a full tanabata festival I can only show you these random snap shots that I was taking as my brain slowly started to boil. Only the tea photo really needs an explanation. It’s a photo of the locally produced green tea, Sayama-cha. There’s few places famous for tea plantations this close to Tokyo but Sayama is one of them. There was also a parade with two marchingbands from local elementary schools.
After a long rest in the cafe I felt goid enough to return home and I spent the rest of that Saturday half-sleeping in bed. I’m fully recovered by now so no need to worry, except for my bright red poor face. Japanese are far tougher than me, or at least better prepared.
Some more photos from the Tanabata festival at Zojoji, one of the largest temples in the Tokyo area. The temple itself, like many other temples in Japan has moved around a lot since it’s founding and Zojoji itself has been on this spot since 1590. It is famous for hosting the graves of six of the fifteen Tokugawa shogun, which is in itself quite enough reason to go visit the temple.
The tanabata festival I attended was big, loud and colorful, with live performances from a famous singer/pianist duo and lots of stuff for kids to do, the two most popular being the handmade lanterns and a boxcar-run that I was unable to get any good shots of, unfortunately. More festival photos coming soon, as the this year’s festival season starts in earnest!