One of my favorite kinds of stores in Tokyo are the prefectural satellite stores, where you can buy local specialities, unique food and beverages, souvenirs and crafts from the home prefecture of the store. They are scattered all over Tokyo, some prefectures have several big stores like Hokkaido, whereas some prefectures have only one or two very small stores almost hidden away somewhere: it doesn’t matter to me, I like to find them all! The other day I was passing through Yurakucho rather late, and feeling slightly hungry but not enough to eat a proper meal I decided to visit the Osaka prefectural store on one of the corners of the Kotsukaikan just next to JR Yurakucho station (not the side towards Marunouchi). I don’t know how many times I have promised myself to visit Osaka more, but no matter what I do I never seem to be able to get there, so instead the Osaka satellite store will have to do! I had the local speciality, a very flat okonomiyaki loaded with pickled squid and as a desert I scouted around the store for something interesting to drink – something loaded with sugar! I know I am not supposed to snap photos in the store (who am I kidding, with my huge and loud monster of a Nikon I can hardly call it snapping a photo…!) but I just had to show you these fantastic ramune (lemonade, soft soda pops) and a very stylish and retro-romantic coffee bottles! How about the Kimchi, Takoyaki, Curry, and Rayu variations of the humble ramune? I am usually all for oddly flavored ramune, which are usually quite weak, and if it hadn’t been for the fact that I unsuspectingly bought a navy-curry flavored ramune a couple of weeks ago that actually really tasted quite strongly of curry, I would have tried them all! On the shelf below I found the more appetizing and more Osaka looking Billiken and Pro-Wrestling flavored ramune! I suspect them to be more conservative when it comes to flavoring. The coffee is the classical retro-brand so famous in Osaka, the Marufuku (丸福珈琲店) ice coffee brand. I don’t know what it taste like but it is so famous it is already on top of my list of places to visit when I get to Osaka next!
A few more photos from the big Sannou Matsuri in Tokyo a couple of weeks ago. Most traditional festivals in Japan are very closely related to the ancient Shinto religion, a religion that started more as a folk-lore and in which there are many kinds of spirits, human, natural, animal, even mineral! So it makes sense to acknowledge the natural spirits of even the plants and the animals of Japan in many of the shinto festivals. Here a white horse and a holy tree are used in the 9 hour plus procession around Japan. If you missed it this year, make sure to go see it next year!
A couple of weeks ago we were able to enjoy the prestigious Sannou Matsuri here in Tokyo, one of the three grand edo period festivals of the city. Among the participants in the parade was quite a few fantastically dressed young ladies. When I took these photos these people had been walking for the better part of the day from early morning and I would imagine they were getting quite tired on this very hot day. I especially like the first photo, I managed to catch that wonderful look on her face!
Today – right now actually – is your last chance to see this year’s grand Sannou Matsuri procession on the streets of Tokyo. Covering a pretty good part of Tokyo’s most central addresses, this procession will spend almost ten hours winding its way to Nagatacho’s Hie shrine. I took these photos on Friday, the first day of the procession, and since it was a weekday very few people were out to watch it. As with most traditional things in this city of millions, most people have never heard of this festival and can live their entire lives in Tokyo without ever seeing it even though it employs hundreds of people and is one of the three major historical festivals in Tokyo.
As with all festivals, the portable shrines are the center point. They are carried, pulled, rolled or drawn around the city to parade the holy shrine for the city to see. In the old days festivals would compete to have the most extravagant omikoshi, hikiyama or dashi (お神輿, 曳山, 山車, there are several names for the different types of portable shrines). These hikiyama could become very tall, some have raisable platforms so that they could more easily be stored, some had mast like contraptions that could raise the top of it tens of meters in the air. But most of these really tall hikiyama fell victim to the modernization of Japanese cities and the last time they were used in Tokyo was in 1889, before the trams and train lines made it impossible to move them around the city. These days they are much smaller but still accompanies by teams of men with large bamboo poles to lift wires and other obstructions. When they pass through particularly narrow openings or under bridges, people usually cheer! The phoenix (or any kind of mythological bird) on top of the portable shrines) look slightly different around Japan. I have been told that Osaka birds are more modest in their wingspan, while Tokyo people preferred birds that really stretched out their wings. I wonder if this is correct? So if you’re in Tokyo reading this, get out there and cheer them on! I posted a link to the procession map in yesterday’s blog!