Last Saturday was the grand Koiwa Awaodori festival, perhaps one of the first, bigger Awaodori festivals in central Tokyo of the year. This was only the second annual festival, making it one of the youngest festivals of this kind in Tokyo. True to form, this year the rain was pouring down just like on the inaugural event last year! The dancers and musicians of this traditional dance from from Tokushima Prefecture in southern Japan held strong though and danced the entire two hours of the main event, despite the pouring rain.
I took these photos in the beginning of the festival, of the famous Asakusa Kaminariren (浅草雷連) and the new for me but excellent Eboshiren (笑星連) from Kanagawa Prefecture. Both teams were excellent in high form! As soon as the rain period ends the Awaodori season here in Tokyo beings in earnest – I can hardly wait!
One of my favorite images in terms of pride, ritual, dignity, and tradition when it comes to the classic Japanese festivals (matsuri in Japanese) are the lantern bearers often found in front of the omikoshi. When several omikoshi team up for a parade, you get several of them lined up, forming a wall, each bearing a lantern with the name of the group or neighborhood they represent. When you have hundreds of them, as in last months massive 400 year anniversary Kanada Matsuri, you get serval opportunities to see these teams lined up and ready to go. At this festival the parades started early in the morning but the sheer size of the festival meant that most of them were not ready to even get close to the shrine until well into the evening. I took these photos near Akihabara station, as one group of omikoshi were waiting for their turn to approach the shrine. In between waiting, there was entertainment in the form of a lion dancer, performing for the kids and adults of the omikoshi teams.
At night the lantern groups look even more impressive. One day I’ll get around to posting photos of that too!
On Sunday I visited the annual Omikoshi parade at Yokohama City’s Isezakicho main street, near Kannai station. It is not a normal festival in that there is no shrine actually sponsoring it, instead omikoshi from various shrines in the areas are gathered for one massive three and half hour parade down the street. There was supposed to be 18 of them, but I only saw 16 I think, or I might have missed counting a couple in the confusion! Despite this being the rainy season the weather was merciless; hot and a blazing sun!
The most interesting thing for us tokyoites is the peculiar Shonan area style of shouldering the omikoshi, the Dokkoi. These omikoshi use only two long poles rather than the Edo style which is four poles, and a much sturdier construction. Many of these also have a “box” under section, with massive metal handles being slammed rhythmically against the hollow box sides making for a massive din. Unlike the Edo style common in Tokyo the omikoshi here do not swing from side to side, but rather up and down.
Many of the teams are accompanied by a singer calling out the rhythmical cadence style folk singing, the jinku. I love this melody and it is a special pleasure to follow the teams with the best singers!
Lots of festivals recently but I can’t really help myself from keep posting them! Summer is the great festival season of Japan and here in Tokyo you really are spoilt for choices, especially if you don’t mind spending a couple of hours on the train getting out of the city! One of my favorite “near Tokyo” festivals is the grand Narita Gionsai, where the rather huge dashi of the city are pulled up and down the narrow – and very steep! – streets of Narita Old Town! The festival is next month and quite famous, it will be hard to miss if you are in the area.
One of my favorite parts of the festival is when the dashi pass on of the traditional inns of Narita Old Town, and the guests on the upper floors dangle out donations of cash on long fishing rods! The men on the roofs of the dashi do their best to catch them. I have only visited this festival once and am not so familiar with the whys and the wherefores of this aspect of the festival, but it looks fun!