One of the biggest events of the Kanda Matsuri (Kanda Festival) is the Shinkousai, which is a traditional parade covering over one hundred Tokyo neighborhoods, featuring a parade of priests, gods and shrines half a kilometer long and involving about 1000 people. This year it took place on a Saturday, unfortunately the weather was not perfect but still good enough to keep the parade moving. The parade starts at 0800 and returns to the Kanda Myojin Shrine at 1900. Of course such a long walk requires a bit of stamina from the participants, which explains why most of them are drawn from university athletic clubs, fire fighting departments, judo clubs etc. The costumes and the traditional parade items are something to behold!
This year’s Kanda Matsuri started last week and the peak was this weekend. The Kanda Matsuri is a festival centering on the huge Kanda Myojin in central Tokyo, right between Ochanomizu and Akihabara stations. It is usually a massive festival but since this year was the 400th anniversary so it was larger than ever. I took these photos on the Saturday, in and around the shrine. More photos to come!
The last of my posts of photos from the annual Yabusame event in Tokyo’s Taito Ward’s Asakusa. After the more minor archery event on foot a bit further up the riverside the main event of Yabusame starts. The modern form of the sport was established in the 16th century after it was feared that the tradition and skill of the mounted archer would disappear after the introduction of western firearms and subsequently rifles and artillery. One of the samurai clans, the Ogasawara, were tasked with keeping the tradition alive and under their care it formalized into the ritual/sport we have today.
The tradition of mounted archery is of course rooted in the hunting of prey for food but it was also an effective form of early warfare when scores of mounted archers could harass and even break up units of enemy foot soldiers. We can only guess at the level of skill among the samurai who did this for a living, day in an day out, it must have been astounding! Modern archers are quite impressive still, and it is quite thrilling to watch it live up close! For these photos the widest lens I used was a 17-35mm wide zoom, which gives you an idea of how close you can get in these shows.
More action packed photos of the grand Yabusame (mounted horse archery) event at Asaskusa’s Sumida Koen from a couple of weeks ago. I was too busy covering other parts of the event to be able to stand in line for tickets to the proper seats but I was just in time to get a good standing spot (free of charge and no lining up necessary) just at the beginning of the yabusame run. Close enough to smell the horses and get having to dusting of my camera and clothes after each run even. My first impression of Yabusame was similar to my first impression of sumo wrestling, in that there is a great deal of ceremony, parading and ritual, and in between fast and furious violent action that is often over in the blink of an eye. Yabusame is very much like that. In the photos it might seem almost leisurely but in real time the horses are gone past before you know it. On previous years I have had photos where the arrow is still in the air on its way to the target while the horse and archers has completely passed out of the frame even! Thank you Nikon, for making these high tech fast shooting cameras for us!