By this date last year the official Sakura season here in Tokyo had already started but this year the trees seems to be a little bit less hurried. Yesterday I visited the famous Yasukuni Shrine in Kudanshita to see the official sakura tree for myself. The buds where there but not ready to burst open just quite yet. Of the hundreds of cherry trees in the shrine I saw only one that had started flowering, but not the official tree. So not yet, but any day now, the tree here in Yasukuni will start flowering.
One of the best summer festivals in the capital is undoubtedly the massive three day Mitama Matsuri at Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo’s Kudanshita. The last few years the festival goers have been entertained by a great Awaodori performance by the local team, Kitanogomonren (北の御門連). The team was founded by and for people living in and near the Iidabashi, Kudanshita and Fujimi ditricts. I took these photos of their performance at Yasukuni Shrine, beautifully (although very sparingly) lit up by the many lanterns of the festival against the backdrop of the blue beams from the twin searchlights.
It is hard to tell in these photos but the evening was exceptionally hot, with daytime temperatures between 34 and 35 degrees celsius (about 93 degrees F). The dancers somehow managed to give us half an hour of concentrated dancing! Their uniforms must have been soaked afterwards.
At Tokyo’s famous Yasukuni Shrine earlier this year I saw a performance of Nihon Buyo, traditional Japanese dances, one of which was a rather funny mime dancer doing a near perfect fisherman routine. I have seen a lot of Nihon Buyo over the years but never something as funny as this. Unfortunately I didn’t get a program for the performance that day.
Few shrines in Tokyo has as great stages as Yasukuni shrine. Most weekends have something interesting being performed and since it is always free to watch it is always worth a visit. It is close to Kudanshita subway station or a not too far walk from Iidabashi train station.
This year too I made sure to visit the famous Yasukuni Shrine on the night of New Year’s eve. It was on last on my list of shrines to visit (the list was unusually long this year) and so things had quieted down considerably by the time I got there at around two-three in the morning. There were still thousands of people around and the line to the shrine altar was an hour long even at this time of night. The most photogenic aspect of New Year’s at Yasukuni was as usual the Scouts standing honor guard at several places around the shrine. How they manage not to kill themselves by pneumonia I have no idea! The fire is warm but at the distance where they stand it is barely perceptible. The new ema, showing the horse that symbolizes this year, was up, and there was a long line to buy the holy shinto arrows, good luck charms and fortune telling slips. Hatsumode is the name of the first visit to a shrine at New Years, and people do it individually, with their family or even with the office as a large group of workers visit the local shrine on behalf of their company or corporation.