This Saturday Tokyo was practically saturated with festivals. There were too many to even consider trying to see more than a few of them. On Saturday evening I visit the bigger than expected Nebuta Matsuri at Sakurashinmachi. The Nebuta festival is the most famous cultural export out of Aomori Prefecture up north, one of the most all-in festivals of the country with huge paper sculptures lit from within, thousands of dancers in what at first looks like a mosh pit at a punk festival, huge drums and a very addictive flute melody that tends to get itself stuck in your mind for days. In other words, great fun! Aomori prefecture is very far from Tokyo so there are quite a few festivals around Tokyo bringing Aomori to the city rather than the other way around.
Sakurashinmachi is famous for two things, horses and Sazaesan, the massively popular long running animated TV show featuring a multi-generational family living in this town. So over half of the Nebuta decorations are Sazaesan-themed and very popular with the kids! It is easy to get here, by the Denentoshi Line connecting with the Hanzomon Subway line in Shibuya. More photos to come!
At the national horse day event at Setagaya Ward’s Bajikoen I saw these school kids showing doing a bit of horse acrobatics. Very impressive, especially considering the very limited training time they must have here in central Tokyo. I have never seen this outside of a circus and it looks very difficult. Bajikoen is one of the very few places in central Tokyo where you can go to see horses and horseriding. To get there from Shibuya station you can either take the train to Sakurashinmachi station or take a bus (23, 24 or 26 and get off at the Nodaimae bus stop).
At the end of September every year, Bajikouen (馬事公苑), the biggest equine sports center in Tokyo celebrates Aiba no hi, or Horse Day, with special events, shows and “meet the horses”. The events start early, at ten in the morning (it is the last day of a three day long weekend so a lot of people sleep in that morning) with yabusame (horse archery), test riding, show jumping and many other things. I was there and took a few snaps of some of the events, including a ladies sidesaddle show ride and some very interesting non-competitive variation on horse polo, in which the riders pick up a small ball and stage mock attacks on castle wall, trying to throw the ball into a small target.
Bajikouen is a bit of a walk (but not too far) from Sakura Shinmachi Station and if you are a horse lover I recommend going there just before noon on weekends, as there is almost always some sort of competition going on, usually with local high schools and universities competing. As you can expect, there are very few opportunities to ride horses in Japan and even few places to actually compete, so such a centrally located sports center gets a lot of use!