This weekend is the main two days of festivities in the massive Sanja Matsuri, the biggest festival in Tokyo in almost all aspects imaginable. Over a hundred omikoshi (portable shrines) make the rounds of the district and the shrines and temples, and hundreds of thousands of people gather to watch. Easily the high point of the year for all festival lovers here in Tokyo! I took these photos of the festival in 2014. I hope the weather stays as good this year!
The huge Gokokuji Temple in Tokyo’s Bunkyo Ward is interesting not least for its graves of many historically significant persons in Japanese recent history. Not least among them is the statesman and Imperial Court Noble Sanjo Sanetomi (三条実美, 13th March 1837 – 28th February 1891). More well known to Westerns might be the grave of Marquess Okuma Shigenobu (大隈重信, March 11th 1838 – January 10th 1922) whose grave is in the first picture. Both of these men were prime ministers of Japan, Okuma during the first years of the Great War, and both of them have huge stone Torii guarding the entrances to their graves. Okuma founded the schools that would become the famous Waseda University in 1882. He also spoke English and managed to remove the official ban on Christianity in 1873.
I took these photos in the winter a few months ago, but now in summer the cemetery is more spectacularly alive with trees, flowers and birds everywhere.
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.