The end of the Enoshima Shrine festival that I have been blogging about this week, comes when the Omikoshi is carried down into the ocean by lots of nearly naked men. Usually the omikoshi is taken as deeply as possible into the ocean but on this day there was a typhoon on its way to Japan so the waves were much fiercer than usual: every couple of minutes the level of the ocean would suddenly rise a meter or so, when the waves came through, making it far too dangerous to actually take the omikoshi into deeper water. It looked like the men carrying it were having great fun though, even in the not very deep water!
This weekend is the absolute peak of the Awadori festivals of the year, all over Kanto there are large and small festivals taking place and I can not think of any team that has not been mobilized. If you are in the Kanto area, you have no excuses! Ready? Here goes: On Friday the big festival is the Kagurazaka Awaodori, with well over 15 different teams taking part in one of the most grueling locations offered in Tokyo – the steep Kagurazaka slope! But even if you are in Kitamachi you can catch one of the two performances of Ponpokoren, or in Chiba’s Mobara you can see two different hour long performances by local teams. On Saturday you have the smaller Kasei Awaodori and the Minakendori festivals in Tokyo, the second day of the massive Kagurazaka festival and the first main day of the large Kitamachi festival, and the big Koganei Awaodori first day which might be even bigger than Kagurazaka. Also the full blown main event Mobara Awaodori in Chiba with eleven teams! Not bad! This is in addition to smaller performances by single teams in Kamata, Kashiwa, Kawagoe, Hamura, Fujisawa and Asahi! But the big one of Saturday is the huge Yamato Awaodori in Kanagawa Prefecture with well over 18 teams!
If you still have any energy left, Sunday gives us performances during the day in Kamine Kouen and Yamato at noon, and three teams in Fujino City in the afternoon, giving you time to head over to the second day of the Yamato Awaodori festival starting at five, the relatively tiny festival in Tanashi or the smaller festival in Kasei (with merely eight teams!), or the second day of the huge Koganei festival. This is addition to performances by one or two teams in about ten other locations on Sunday, all over the Kanto area.
I will be keeping busy this weekend. But I might have to divert my attention to a few non-Awaodori festivals. This weekend is truly the one I could consider renting a helicopter for! Here are photos from last year’s festivals in Kagurazaka and Yamato! As you can see they have slightly different characters, but both are absolutely excellent festivals. Enjoy!
Edit – I think this is a good opportunity to mention a subject brought up by Yoshizen on Awaodori as Culture, where he mentions Awaodori as an example of popular Japanese culture that has not been exported abroad (although there has been attempts recently), or an example of Japanese pop culture not related in any way to the hugely famous manga and anime cultures. I think this is a very correct way of seeing things. In this post Yoshizen does not ponder too much why this particular pop-culture has not made the leap abroad, but I think the most obvious answer is the difficulties of commodification inherent in Awaodori. Sure there are opportunities for sales and products but Awaodori is above all a participatory sport involving lots of people (and that includes the audience) and massive amounts of time and space. It is not really enjoyable recorded or TV either. I think we are still a long way away from seeing Awodori make the cultural leap abroad, but I declare the first foreign city to host more than two teams to be the future capital of International Awaodori. If things go well in our world, I am sure it will happen. In the U.S., San Francisco is taking the lead with The San Francisco Awakko-Ren!!
If you have ever been to Enoshima you know that the main street running through the little town is absolutely tiny, not even bicycles make it up it. So it was quite fun to see the big Omikoshi make its way down the stairs, through gates and under torii (the π shaped gates in front of shinto shrines) and finally down the main street, pushing tourists, shoppers and townspeople aside as it passed down towards the ocean. I was lucky enough to know a shortcut in a tiny alley to the side of the main street so I could hurry around the omikoshi and get a few photos of it as it emerged onto the plaza in front of the fist torii. More photos to come!
Enoshima, a small but tall and very rocky island on the south coast of Kanagawa prefecture south west of Tokyo has been a holy spot for a very long time. The first record of a shrine or temple on this island is from the year 552 A.D., which is when the present Shrines on the island counts as they having been founded. During the years a number of holy buildings and caves have been added to the island, all being headed under the name Enoshima Shrine, whose main building Hetsunomiya was erected in 1206, rebuilt in 1675 and renovated in 1976 and is famous for its undulating three waved roof.
A couple of weekends ago the shrine’s Yasaka Shrine (Yasaka Jinja) section celebrated its annual festival and I was there in the morning to see the Omikoshi dedication ceremony attended by many officials of the island the neighboring towns. The ceremony at the shrine was finished with a parade of shamisen players, drummers, singers and flutists, just before the omikoshi was handed over to the men of the town to be carried down to the ocean. More photos of this to come!