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!
As summer is coming to Tokyo I thought I should share more photos of one of my favorite places for a long nature stroll in the capital – Sawanoi in Ome City in the far west of Tokyo. Quite a bit of a train journey away from Shinjuku but well worth is this hidden gem of a river valley complete with foot bridges, easy to walk paths and trails and more greenery than you can shake a stick at! Just take the Chuo line to the west towards Ome and get off at Sawanoi station.
Yesterday I mentioned one of the things that the little village of Rendaiji in Shimoda City was famous for – the hot springs. These hot spring were what ultimately led the village to attract its second great claim to fame, as the hiding place of the great Edo period intellectual Yoshida Shoin (吉田松陰) on his grand adventure to hitch a ride with the US Navy for a study trip to North America.
Yoshida Shoin was born in 1830, the scion of prestigious samurai family who traditionally occupied themselves with training of the Shogun military forces. He got an excellent education and soon develop a fatal wanderlust. In 1851 he applied for permission to study in the north of Japan but committed the crime of leaving before his paperwork had been finished. For this he was stripped of his samurai rank and were forced to leave his family. For a few years he made a living teaching until a he by chance learned of the US Navy Officer Matthew Perry having arrived in Japan. His petition to join the Americans and return with them to study the West was denied but this being Yoshida he was not going to take no for an answer. He traveled in haste to Shimoda where the American ships where anchored but due to a bad skin condition he was forced to stop by in Rendaiji where at night he snuck into the therapeutic hot spring baths to try and get his skin a little better. A local doctor found him and put him up in an old inn, which has been preserved. This blog post is about that inn, which still remains today exactly as Yoshida would have found it in 1853. Feeling better he snuck out again at night, and hid in a cave near the American ships until it was dark enough for him to row out to the ships. The American sailors caught him and forbade him to even deliver the letters he had painstakingly written in the old inn (the inkstone and table still remains). He had no choice but to return where he was swiftly captured by the local garrison. After spending a while in prison in Edo (soon to be Tokyo) he was let out to run a little school where he managed to attract some of the most brilliant scholars and revolutionaries of the time. The shogun sensing that there was trouble brewing began rounding up rebel thinkers and in 1859 Yoshida was one of the many executed. A little while later the shogunate was overthrown and power restored to the Emperor and the civilian government, ending over 250 years of Japanese isolation (and peace). But that is a different story.
The house is an interesting visit, not least the bathroom, and the room where Yoshida hid, which is much tinier than it looks in the photo, the ceiling being so low you have to stay on your knees. Of course most of the information is in Japanese and I doubt they have staff at hand who speak English, especially off season.