Tokyobling's Blog

Shunkireitaisai – Yasukuni Shrine Spring Festival

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on April 22, 2012

Every great shrine in Japan has a regular yearly festival, something called their “reisai”, so naturally one of the greatest shrines in the country, the Yasukuni shrine has two of them! One of which started yesterday, called the Shunkireitaisai, which means the Regular Spring Time Grand Festival, quite literally translated into English. It’s a three day event and yesterday they held the opening ritual in which a holy branch from a holy tree was presented to the inner sanctum and used to sanctify the attendants in the festival, in this case priests and a select few lay people, and even everyone who attended the ceremony, which included me! It’s the first time I have had this ritual performed on my although I have seen it from a distance dozens of times! Lucky me! Yesterday’s ceremony was only attended by about 50 people, a very small crowd, as the regular festival starts the following day, which would be today, the 22nd of April, and ends on the 23rd of April.

Usually, shinto priests and clergy aren’t very open to being photographed, so I have very few photos of priests in uniform since I don’t want to offend anyone, but on this occasion photography was allowed and I snapped away like there was no tomorrow! I hope you aren’t bored by the repetitive photos, all taken with my lovely prime lens, the 135mm at f2.8.


8 Responses

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  1. QQ said, on April 22, 2012 at 3:54 am

    Love the first shot of the mikos, if that guy in the suit was not standing there, it’d be perfect.


    • tokyobling said, on June 1, 2012 at 11:17 am

      Thank you for the kind comment QQ! I totally agree, unfortunately (or maybe fortunately?) I can’t control these scenes…


  2. Tarky7 said, on April 22, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    Amazing images, TokyoBling! …and what an honor, to be asked (or asked + allowed) to shoot this event. A window on ancient Japan that for some reason gives me hope. Thank you so much for sharing these images, the way you have shot the event is both elegant and respectful.

    I have loved your images of the cherry blossoms as well this year, as my winter here is Vermont was like living on the Ice Planet Hoth ~ lol

    Speaking of SciFi, I am certain that the creative directors + stylists who created the original and subsequent generations of Star Trek used the garb + attitude of The High Shinto Festivals as inspiration for the creation of the Theoretical Vulcan Religion + Culture.

    Great work!


    • tokyobling said, on June 1, 2012 at 11:23 am

      Hi Kit and sorry for the late reply! I wasn’t asked to shoot this, just allowed. I would love to be the official photographer for something like this but the shrine has a young priest dedicated to that job so I will miss out I guess. This kind of situation, as you kindly notices, really calls out for tactful photos, and I tried to do the gravitas justice! I can imagine the Vermont winter, must be pretty intense! Still I always envied the rebel commandoes their neat hats with the goggles… must get some for my next trip to snow country! I don’t know anything about Star Trek, but a quick google image search suggests you are right! (^-^)


  3. Emily Cannell said, on April 23, 2012 at 6:27 am

    WOW TB- great pictures. I thought it was just since WWII that the Emporer couldn`t go to Yasukuni… (I read ahead) due to the burial of the foreign soldiers? Do you know the reason?

    This is a great series of shots. No one managed to get one of you?


    • tokyobling said, on June 1, 2012 at 11:29 am

      Thanks for the kind comment Emily! Well, the emperor used to go, but after the shrine upper management decided to include the souls of executed war ciminals the emperor was furious and ceased all this personal visits. I don’t know much about the situation, but I think the emperor was duped by the warmongers, and he didn’t want to honor them with his visits. This imperial cold shoulder is still given to the shrine to this day. There are thousands of non-Japanese soldiers enshrined there, some of whose families disagree but also many of whom are honored. The shrine doesn’t differentiate between nationality or race. Luckily no Americans died serving Japan during the latest war, but I am sure if it had happened they would have been included as well.

      I am always happy to stay out of the attention and the photos! I’m most comfortable being the fly on the wall of life! (^-^;)


  4. Carrie said, on April 27, 2012 at 11:05 am

    I love their dress, so elegant. You did a wonderful job with these pictures.


    • tokyobling said, on June 1, 2012 at 11:54 am

      Thank you so much for your kind comment Carrie! (^-^)


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