Sometimes people who practice martial arts become so proficient with their weapons that it becomes reasonably safe to start practicing with real weapons instead of the blanks or dummys most mere mortals have to use. At the famous Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo’s Kudanshita district I saw these two elderly masters give a flashing sword fight performance with real blades. Obviously they are well choreographed, but still you would need to be able use the weapons very well in order to be able to perform these shows regularly. Yasukuni Shrine is a great place to go to see classic Japanese culture for free. I saw this performance in the morning of the large Mitama Festival in the summer of this year.
The traditional dancing of Japan is not only performed by geisha, but also by ordinary people, like this girl performign at the Yasukuni shrine in central Tokyo this last summer. With roots in the 17th century, traditional Japanese dancing is now quite rare, and fantastically expensive as a hobby among ordinary people. This little girl was excellent in her pantomime and slow, studied movements. If you are interested in classical Japanese arts and culture it is often cheaper and easier to keep an eye out for the rare free performances like this! Most of these dances are performed alone, but sometimes there is an assistant clad in black staying silent and motionless in the background, only moving to hand props or arrange the clothing of the dancer.
Here’s some more snapshots of the fabulously beautiful Mitama Matsuri paper lanterns. You buy these at a special counter and the shrine will then write your name and place them around the shrine grounds on these large wooden frames. The whole image is almost breathtaking at dusk, and it looks fantastic even at night. Some of the visitors were wonderfully dressed up in traditional summer yukata, while others were just plain wonderful. I can’t wait for next years Mitama Matsuri here at the Yasukuni Shrine!