Tokyobling's Blog

Ometaisai – Ome Grand Festival

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on May 6, 2014

Every year on the second and third of May the city of Ome in western Tokyo throws its grand festival, the Ometaisai. This is the biggest festival on the little city that lies just in the middle of the great Omekaido, a road that was built in 1603 by orders of the Shogun in Edo (Tokyo) in order to transport material for the Edo castle (sadly long gone). The road stretches from Kofu in Yamanashi prefecture, through Ome City and ends at the big street crossing just to the north of Shinjuku Station. In the old days Ome sprang up as a shukuba, a road post that provided food, rest and lodging for public officials traveling along the road. These days most people use the train to reach Tokyo, which is 800 yen one way from Ome to Shinjuku and take just under an hour. For people working in Tokyo and have their companies pay for the train fare, living in Ome should be a very attractive option: great access to nature, rivers, mountains, hiking trails and hunting, not to mention that rents in Ome City is about one fifth of what they are in central Tokyo!

While visiting the festival I met so many friendly people. There were plenty of dashi, mobile festival wagons, manned by locals. One cool man helped me make sure I got close enough to the dashi to take these photos and stay safe while doing so. The dashi are not so fast but they weave around quite a bit and the crew pulling them sometimes need to act quickly to steer it left or right. I loved the hair on one of the hayashi drummers up on the first dashi I saw: her friend asked me jokingly after taking his photo wether I had also gotten a photo of their own Lady Gaga! Of course I had!

The festival follows the Omekaido, that runs through the city, with hayashi music stations set up at intervals along the route. The dancers on these stations take turns and whenever a shishi (lion) dancer comes out parents rush up with their children to have them bit on the head! It is supposed to bring health, good luck and intelligence! Some kids absolutely hate this but others enjoy it so much they did their best to reach the shishi even without the help of their parents.

If you have a chance to visit the Ome festival, do it! This is easily one of the most easily accessible “countryside” festivals for people based in Tokyo, and it is really fun and colorful. I will keep posting photos from this festival, as everywhere I went there was something fun or interesting going on.

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6 Responses

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  1. Dina Farmer said, on May 7, 2014 at 12:07 am

    Love the Lady Gaga! You didn’t get any shots of crying kids lol??!?!

    Like

    • tokyobling said, on May 7, 2014 at 12:16 am

      Hahaha…. You know I always try (I am like the WordPress version of Jill Greenberg)! But for some reason the kids of Ome seems tougher than other kids! It must be all that snow in the winters. (^-^)

      Like

  2. Timi said, on May 7, 2014 at 8:05 pm

    I want to be bitten too >.<

    Like

  3. Zoe Hutchinson said, on May 10, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    What does it mean? The children being ‘bitten’ is it good luck?

    Like

    • tokyobling said, on May 11, 2014 at 3:05 am

      Yes, good luck is the main thing! Also prosperity, health, intelligence etc. (^-^)

      Like


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