Almost every time I visit the grand Tsurugaoka Hachimangu in Kamakura I get the chance to visit one of their gorgeous traditional wedding ceremonies. The shrine is not only one of the biggest tourists attractions of Kamakura but also very popular with couples all over Kanagawa prefecture and beyond! I saw two ceremonies when I was there a couple of weeks ago, and here are some snapshots of one of them, from the whole ceremony waiting in the shade to the seating at the raised platform before the shrine itself. It was an exceedingly hot and sunny day with temperatures near 34 degrees celsius in the shade!
Today is the seventh of the seventh, and in Japan that means it’s time for the tanabata festival, at least according to our modern Gregorian calendar. The most visual aspect of the tanabata festival is the large decorations you’ll see put up at temples, shrines and even stations and shopping malls all over the country. I took these photos yesterday at Kamakura’s grand Tsurugaoka Hachimangu on the first day of summer here in the Kanto region, the rather dry rainy season having ended early. But the most famous tanabata festivals take place in Sendai City in Miyagi Prefecture.
This spring has been incredibly cold, wet, windy and weird. Yesterday we had barely 6 degrees here in Tokyo and in Gunma and Tochigi prefectures there were plenty of snowfall. Something is wrong with the weather! But there has been a handful of good days, like this morning a couple of weeks ago when I happened to pass through the famous Tsurugaoka Hachimangu in Kamakura city south of Tokyo. I didn’t have time to stop but I had my camera ready and just took the things I saw as I hurried through the grand shrine. If you visit Tokyo this shrine about an hour’s train ride away is one of the must sees! I have been here so many times I rarely find anything new these days but I found a new ema design that I hadn’t seen before, one with a ginkgo tree image to commemorate the great gingko tree that blew down in the morning March 10th 2011 (which some people later recognized as a bad omen). The tree was 30m tall and about 1000 years old and it’s going to be awhile until the new tree planted near the old tree stump will grow to be anything like it’s predecessor.
Almost every time I visit the grand shrine in Kamakura, the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu there seems to be a wedding going on. It’s a great opportunity to see the finest kimono and listen to the thousand of years old ceremonial music being played live. I caught this ceremony a couple of days ago, the bride looked really nervous as she was taking instructions from the priest assistants. Since it’s currently Golden Week here in Japan the shrine was packed with tourists and visitors enjoying the great weather and that in itself should be enough to make any bride nervous! The groom looked much more relaxed. It’s not all that common to see these traditional ceremonies performed out in the open, usually they are confined to the inner sanctum of the shrines. At most you can see the traditional wedding parade if you visit places like the Meiji Jingu in central Tokyo, but this shrine in Kamakura (Kanagawa prefecture) is one of the best for seeing traditional weddings!