Tokyobling's Blog

More Akasaka Hikawajinja Festival

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on September 16, 2013

I hope you are not getting tired of festival photos! It is the festival season and I spend most of my free time following the festivals around Tokyo. Here are some more photos from the festival at Akasaka’s grand Hikawa shrine. The procession has moved down to just in front of Akasaka Mitsuke station, and there it lines up, reforms and get ready for a return journey up the slope to Akasaka station, in front of Akasaka Sakasu. The lantern bearers and officials get a chance to drink something as cans of soda and tea are passed around. I usually drink about a liter of fluids during a couple of hours of just shooting these processions, I can only imagine how parched the people taking part must be!

For some reason this is the part of the festivals that I like best. The quiet moment just before the action starts, the rest and the readiness. When everyone is waiting for the signal to go, no one in the procession (or even the policemen) knowing any more than their own limited part, everyone trusting and waiting for someone to give the go ahead. It takes a lot of energy to control a “machine” like this, to keep it on its toes ready to start. Once the procession starts going it follows a logic of its own and the people involved perform their part. So my favorite photo this time is the fourth from the bottom. Just minutes before starting. In the last two photos you can see concrete pillars sticking up from the ground, I am standing on one of these as I take the photos. I usually don’t like taking photos from above, but sometimes it is fun to do something from an inconvenient angle. I generally have a very bad sense of balance but for some reason got up on these tiny rounded pillars no problem at all.

In the third to last photo you can see the different lanterns held up in the procession, each is decorated with the name of the neighborhood it belongs to, showing that they take part in the festival. It is an honor to get to carry one of these! More photos to come!

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6 Responses

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  1. yoshizen said, on September 16, 2013 at 7:48 am

    Amazingly, the faces here looks like urban white-collar aren’t they. 😀

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    • tokyobling said, on September 16, 2013 at 10:28 am

      I wouldn’t know! Akasaka is quite a posh area but I know some locals and they are very regular working people. (^-^)

      Like

  2. lola said, on September 16, 2013 at 11:02 am

    i understand these are religious festivals. Is this so? Are the people involved at the festivals specially religious or traditional in Japan?
    I have to say that my husband is not a kind of religious person but he enjoyed for the last twenty years carrying a shrine ( in Spain always there is a big saint figure on it). Yesterday he did it again, as every year. For him is mostly tradition and the feeling of being involved in community; kind of contribution. Well, he feels very proud of his village tradition too!

    To me these festivals photos aren’t boring at all. There are lots of things to look at. I like speccially people clothings, shoes, the buildings, the streets. Bandanas, too. Many things.

    I like the third photo. They seems to rely enjoy their heavy task and that’s beautiful; also they remind me the excitment of processions in Spain.

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    • tokyobling said, on October 19, 2013 at 3:32 am

      Hi Lola! Sorry for the late reply to your questions. Yes, these festival all have their basis in the traditional animist religion of Japan, which became the official shinto state religion. I think generally that the people involved are more religious and traditional than other people, excluding of course people of different religions. Japanese generally do not differentiate between religions, to them there are no mutually exclusive religions, like there are in other countries. The Japanese religion is so meshed into the Japanese way of thinking that I do not think it is possible to think of them as different things. Japanese tradition is Japanese religion, and vice versa. In Europe I think there is more of take it or leave it thing going on with religion. Your husband seems to value the community and the tradition more than the religion, which is perfectly valid I think, and very important.

      Thank you for your kind words! If I lived in Spain I would probably take part in the festivals there too!

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  3. pk1154 said, on September 16, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    For some strange reason, I like the uncertainty in the fifth photo; everybody looking in different directions with completely unguarded expressions.

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    • tokyobling said, on October 19, 2013 at 3:34 am

      Thank you for your kind interpretation! I hadn’t seen it in that way. For me the photos are snaps of a movie of memories in my head. I can see the moments before this photo, and the ones coming after. But you are right, they are all waiting for someone to start, not knowing really how or who will set things moving. I love this about Japanese festivals, it is so organic!

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