In Ueno, just near the the famous pond and the zoo, next to one of the gates belonging to Tokyo University you will find the tiny Sakaiinari Shrine (境稲荷神社), and right behind it the tiny ancient well of Benkei Kagami (弁慶鏡ケ井戸). The well, which has been famous for its sweet and clear water has been around for as long as anyone can remember, and it was certainly there before the Shrine, whose beginnings are lost to history, but which was already established in this spot in the late 15th century. The shrine has its name Sakai (meaning border) for being in the middle of the the border between two old towns or villages. It was built over in the 19th century but dug out again in 1940. The revival of the old well turned out to be a very good thing, as its water helped save the lives of many people who lived in the area during the intense bombing raids of 1945. One of the most famous people said to have been saved by the well’s water was the famous painter Yokoyama Taikan (横山大観).
Unfortunately, few natural spring wells can survive the infrastructure of a modern city and today the water is labeled as not for drinking, although you can still draw it, by the Sun Tiger hand pump installed near the old well head.
If you are in Tokyo over the Silver Week you might as well live up the last day of the holidays by visiting the great Hatsudai Awaodori Festival in Shibuya’s Hatsudai district, the first day was today but the second is coming up tomorrow (or today, depending on the time zone where you are reading this) the 23rd. Great fun for the entire family and lost of chances to eat, drink, and see the easily most festive of all Japanese traditional dances!
Here are some photos of the home team – the famous Hatsudairen (初台連) performing at last year’s festival. I hope this year’s second day is not as rainy!
The big Shibuya festival has started, which means that most (all?) shrines in Shibuya will be pooling their resources and manpower to create one huge festival in the center of town. The main even is on the Sunday but there will be plenty of performances, omikoshi, traditional stage plays and music all over the Shibuya area starting… last week. If you are in town and want to see a little bit of a modern traditional festival, I recommend coming down to Shibuya!
The end of August is the big weekend for Awaodori enthusiast as it is when the biggest annual festival outside of Tokushima Prefecture takes place. This year was just as massive as usual with huge crowds and tens of thousands of dancers, drummers, flutists etc. I was at my usual spot, selected for the little bend in the road which means that if I am very lucky and get a clear line it looks like the dancers are coming right at me. Which they are, until they turn to follow the road. Here are some photos of just a few of the participating teams: Hisagoren (ひさご連), Tsutsujiren (つつじ連), Tamakiren (たまき連) and Ochjaren (おぢや連).