Tokyobling's Blog

Yoyogi Hachimangu Taiko Drummers

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on October 1, 2014

One thing you will almost always find at a traditional Japanese festival is the taiko troupe. Taiko drummers are used at most festivals to entertain or cheer the omikoshi carriers on. Sometimes at the shrine itself, near it, or somewhere along the route. I once visited a festival where they used the taiko drummers to calm the excited omikoshi crews down a little bit. Here at the Yoyogi Hachimangu festival which took place last week in Tokyo’s Shibuya ward there was a short performance to mark the half time of the omikoshi circuit around the parish. Taiko drummers are impossible to record correctly, the only way to experience it is to actually be there, and feel the drums in your body!

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Yoyogi Hachimangu Matsuri 2014

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on September 30, 2014

Last weeks saw the annual festival of the Yoyogi Hachimangu, a grand shrine located very scenically on top of a hill in Northern Shibuya Ward. Thanks to the good weather there were lot of people out and about in the area and up around the shrine it was standing room only, just as usual. I missed the Awaodori parade up to the main shrine building but instead I spent a bit more time with the omikoshi as they moved around the shrine. I have a lot of respect for the people who carry these, it is easily the most physically intense activity I have ever tried. It might look easy but it sure isn’t! My favorite guy was the man with the glasses who took turns carrying the omikoshi and manhandling the drums. His drumming skills were top notch and provided great entertainment to the crowd of people who followed him. If you visit Japan you need to make sure you see this at least once!

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Omikoshi vs. Train – Yoyogi Hachimangu Matsuri

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on October 2, 2013

When you are part of a community taking part in a centuries old, sometimes even millennia old tradition, you can be excused for taking a few liberties with laws and traffic. Few people in their right mind would stand in the way of an omikoshi parade. Not only it is terribly rude, it is also a sure way of attracting the anger of the toughest people in the neighborhood. Even police will stop when the omikoshi crosses their path. The only thing I have ever seen not to stop though, is the 15:33 Odakyu Line Express to Shinjuku! It seems even the Gods will have to wait for a green light when trains are involved. I saw this omikoshi belonging to the annual festival at the Yoyogi Hachimangu Shrine as they walked under an overpass and paused to cross the train tracks just in front of the Yoyoghi Hachiman Station on the Odakyu Line.

By the way, if you are wondering about the cause of the expression on the face of the man in the fifth photo, he was very actively persuading a friend of his to join in. You can see in the following photo that he was successful! More photos from the Yoyogi Hachimangu Matsuri to come!

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