A couple of weekend I visited Omiya City in Saitama Prefecture just north of Tokyo for their annual summer festival. It is a newish, huge, city festival (so no properly traditional or religious significance to it as yet), where they show a little bit of everything the city has to offer in terms of culture. One of these being a proper samba carnival! Having never seen a samba carnival in Brazil I can not vouch for how authentic it feels, but it sure looks spectacular! The outlandish costumes, the music (and not least the ladies) are huge attractions for locals and the streets were lined ten deep along the parade route.
August has been very very hot in Japan, with few days under 35 degrees celsius and temperatures hitting 40 even in Saitama Prefecture on several days. To dance for a two hours more or less nonstop in this heat is a feat in itself. The men and women did a great job.
Brazilians make up one of Japan biggest ethnic minorities, and there are currently about 300 000 of them in Japan, mostly concentrated in the factory towns on the southern coast of Japan, stretching between Shizuoka Prefecture and Osaka. Most famously in the city of Hamamatsu where most street signs used to be bilingual in Japanese and Portuguese.
This Saturday sees one of Tokyo’s three Grand Festivals, the Fukagawa Hachiman Matsuri, most famous for being a mizukakematsuri, a water throwing festival. This year looks like it will be massive with over 300 000 people attending. It is one of my favorite festivals a lot of fun to watch or participate in. I took these photos last year during one of the minor days. Each year 54 omikoshi representing the different neighborhoods participate and the parade is quite fun to watch, especially when the firefighters and locals open up with hoses, buckets and bottles of water! If you are a fan of festivals and in Tokyo this weekend, don’t miss this!
If you are in Tokyo over the weekend and want to see or do something special there is nothing I would recommend more than the famous Hachioji Matsuri, one of the biggest festival in Western Tokyo. It is a little bit of a train ride from central Tokyo but less than an hour from most points in the city I think. The festival is scattered all over central Hachioji, but the main action is on the main road near the station, where the giant Dashi are being pulled back and forth throughout the day and the evening. Apart from the there are also plenty of Hayashi (traditional live festival music), omikoshi, dances, rituals, geisha, etc. This festival is easily one of the most “complete” of the big summer festivals in Tokyo! I took these in the scorching hot festival last year but this year looks to be even hotter!
Like other festivals in the Kanto area, Sawara city has the brightly dressed local girls parading in front of the giant Dashi. If you think they look angry it is probably because they have very solemnly and slowly paraded for the better half of an hour, looking into the merciless summer sun! The dolls and decorations on top of the Dashi here in Sawara are really something to see. Some of them are made of hemp rope, like this carp (the mouth opens of course) and the two dolls, one of which are very realistic. I saw one of these on the ground as they prepared it earlier in the day, and it was quite well made, even close up it looked fantastic! The Dashi are manned up on top by young men of the neighborhood armed with staffs to fend of low hanging wires and the odd red-light that needs to be pushed aside.
The doll on top of the Dashi in the last photo is Takemikazuchi, the God of Thunder, Swords and also the first ever Sumo wrestler. His sword was one of the tools presented to the first Emperor of Japan, Jimmu (660 BC – 585 BC). It was quite helpful to him when he conquered the country!