I hope you are not getting bored with the Mitama festival photos! I was there today as well and took these photos. It was incredibly crowded, the worst yet, but still lots of fun and much easier to walk now that the ground had dried up from yesterday’s afternoon squalls. I took a lot of snaps of people, just because I find that there is no other festival in Japan with this variety of visitors, young and old from all walks of life. The first photo is a mix of nine photos, all of which looked fun together but none worth posting on itself. Still, this was the only way I could make sense of the vast sea of people as I entered the festival grounds.
The thing that makes mitama matsuri most famous are the lanterns, the big ones go for 12 000 yen and the small ones for 3000 yen, and just as last year the top sponsor was Mr Sato who on his own must have spent a few million yen on making sure the festival keeps going strong! I don’t think I’ll ever be able to match him, but I might spring for a small lantern next year, a Tokyobling lantern in the shrine grounds! That would be blogworthy. Officially the lanterns are there to honor the lost souls of the old wars, but there is nothing sad or gloomy about this festival!
I have visited the Mitama festival many times but always kept in the main crowds so I have no idea where the one Yasukuni shrine omikoshi (portable shrine) comes from. It always just appears bobbing up and down in the sea of people somewhere in the distance. The shrine usually appears as the taiko drummer performs and the enka singers at the main shrine so I do not usually get to see them up close but the year I tried to get up as close as possible, which was not very close at all. The omikoshi was led by a hayashi team, a small covered “stand” with two drummers and a flutist and got as far as the main gate of the shrine itself before the final ceremony. Mitama festival is just so huge that even a major event like this goes unnoticed by the majority of festival goers, the festival ground itself covers 6.25 hectares, about 6.25 times the size of Trafalgar Square in London. Official sources say that about 300 000 people visit the shrine during this festival but I think that is an old figure and most likely much higher today, maybe half a million? It takes me more than 30 minutes to walk from one end of the festival to the other!
The Mitamamatsuri continues today and tomorrow, so if you have time go visit! It starts at 1800 officially, but it is usually packed with people long before that.
This year’s opening of the massive Mitama Matsuri at Yasukuni Shrine must have broken some sort of record, if not in the number of people then at least in the temperature! It was absolutely boiling away as what must have been several hundreds of thousands of people gathered to enjoy one of Tokyo’s best and largest festivals. The festival started last night at six and goes on until Tuesday night, with events, music, marching bands, choirs, awaodori, obon dancing, monkey shows, traditional Japanese dance, poetry, art, omikoshi, etc. It’s like a mini Olympics in Japanese culture! It’s also a festival were a very large percentage of visitors turn out in Japanese traditional clothing, both foreigners and Japanese. How about these cute kids or the yukata beauties? But I think this superbly handsome dad took the gold medal in his simple retro yukata and hat!
Mitama Matsuri is famous for its many yellow lanterns – if you are in Tokyo over the long weekend, this is something you don’t want to miss!
I have to apologize for all the nature themed posts lately, but spring is in the air and I can hardly keep my eyes from all the green around me lately! One of the least important looking buildings at the famous Yasukuni Shrine in central Tokyo is actually a piegeonnaire. The priests at the shrine are quite successfully breeding hundreds of pairs of white doves and I have noticed them around the shrine many times before, but never seen them enjoying the first days of spring quite like this. If you visit the shrine keep an eye out for these birds! Next time I will bring my proper long lens to get a closer look!