Tokyobling's Blog

Kanda Matsuri Shishigashira – Lion Heads

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on June 22, 2015

One of the most powerful symbols of the great Kanda Matsuri that took place last month at one of Tokyo’s great shrines, the Kanda Myojin, is the entrance of the two Shishigashira, lion heads, into the shrine itself. One male, and one female, their role is to protect the processions of the shrine festival, and when they finally enter the shrine on the last night they are carried on wooden beams by an all female team. Accompanying them are a set of large traditional drums played by young girls, in a very unusual and ominous style of rhythm. It sounds like nothing else I have heard at a Japanese festival. Since this year’s festival was the 400th, the shrine was crowded beyond capacity. The police and the shrine guards could impossible contain the crowds so the women had to really battle their way to the front of the shrine and receive the final blessing from the head priest. The large golden heads looked amazing!

The original shrine Shishigashira were both destroyed in the Great Kanto Earthquake in the 1920s, and these were recreated from photos and drawings in 1983.

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