Last month’s Yoshiwara Gionsai was just as exciting and fun as usual. I could only make it there for the second day, missing the huge tree procession of the day before. One of the peculiar things about this local festival is the omikoshi which is covered in bamboo grass and moved in a way that is different from most other omikoshi. It is take around the parish districts by teams divided by neighborhood and at each handover an ceremony where a bottle of sea water is emptied over the head of the headsman of the omikoshi team. Although many omikoshi teams are now unisex this one is still only open to males, for at least one obvious reason I would only discover when actually trying to lift the omikoshi: it is incredibly physically demanding and space is very limited, so you need as many of the strongest people you can fit, and preferably all of the same height! There is even several points in the procession where the omikoshi stops and is jumped up and down. I don’t know if the sense of fear is stronger than the sense of pain and exhaustion, but failure is not an option!
It is great fun to follow the omikoshi careening through the streets. In the old days it used to be even wilder and different neighborhoods would wrestle for control of it – in mid procession! But a few years ago a straying omikoshi took out a whole stand of festival food and it was decided to calm things down a bit. The women of the neighborhood are kept busy – preparing and handling the hand over ceremonies, following the omikoshi around cooling it off with water and making sure not too many innocent bystanders are caught in the procession!
All in all great fun and if you are in Shizuoka (or in Tokyo and don’t mind the train travel) I can really recommend this festival for next year!
At the Yoshiwara Gionsai in Shizuoka Prefecture’s Fuji City last month I saw the local firefighters perform their traditional ladder acrobatics. I am sucker for these performances and never miss one if I am in the general area. This ladder team was very talented and it was a pleasure seeing some new faces (for me). They also performed one of the very rare three person acrobatics!
I have blogged a lot about this kind of traditional Japanese culture before, so if you want to read more about this, just use the tags at the end of the post!
Today is the grande finale of the lovely Yoshiwara Gion Matsuri in Shizuoka Prefecture’s Fuji City. On the final day the main omikoshi of the local shrine will be handed over from neighborhood to neighborhood and afterwards the dashi parade starts up on the Yoshiwara main street as the different neighborhoods does their best to outperform the other’s in a friendly battle!
If you are in Shizuoka Prefecture today there really is no excuse to miss this once in a year event!
The Yoshiwara Gion festival is one of the biggest annual festivals in the city of Fuji in Shizuoka prefecture to the west of Tokyo. It kicks of tomorrow Saturday with the grande finale on Sunday when the streets will absolutely packed with both locals and tourists. One of the thins I love about this festival is that is essentially dominated by kids and younger people to a degree you don’t see in the bigger cities like Tokyo. Here are some of the photos I took of kids in full on festival mode during a an hour or so on the Sunday evening of last year’s Gionsai.
If you are in Shizuoka over the weekend or in Tokyo and don’t mind the hour and a half train ride, I can really recommend this festival!