Tokyobling's Blog

Ometaisai Dashi at Night

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on June 5, 2015

Dashi, the huge mobile festival platforms pulled around the neighborhood at matsuri time is great fun both to watch and to photograph. Here is the main dashi of the grand Ometaisai that took place last month the Western Tokyo city of Ome.

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Ometaisai Snapshots

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on June 1, 2015

Some more snapshots from last months grand Ometaisai in the western part of Tokyo, Ome City (青梅市). The festival takes place along and near the old Omekaido, one of the great “highways” of old Japan and the main artery of all trade, commerce, travel and transport for hundreds of years. Along the way of the festival area there are several hayashi stations, where performers in traditional costumes entertain the passing dashi, great mobile stages. Each hayashi is managed by a different neighborhood and it is traditional to entertain guests manning the dashi from other neighborhoods with sake, served fresh from large barrels. The sake used in this town is from the local brewery and is served in square wooden containers with a touch of salt added. It must be a special kind of man to be able to handle the dashi from early morning and still stop for a drink of straight liquor at every stop, over and over again! I do not think I could do it myself. The hayashi teams have members of all ages, from kids to the elderly, and are always great fun to watch.

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Ometaisai – Candy Rain

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on May 29, 2015

One of the many ways to lure the kids to attend the local festivals thrown by towns, neighborhoods and shrines around Japan is to offer plenty of loot – preferably candy and snacks! In the grand Ometaisai, the big festival that took place a few weeks ago in Tokyo’s western Ome City, I saw this dashi (mobile stage) and hayashi crew (traditional festival music troupe) organize a little candy rain! The kids had a blast trying to catch the candy and this being Japan and candy being very very cheap, the local neighborhood had arranged for mind blowing amounts of candy to be thrown out, ensuing that everyone would get at least something. I guess most, if not all, dashi of the festival do this because some kids had already brought half full bags of snacks! It was great fun watching the action and the hayashi dancer doing the actual throwing employed all tricks of the trade, underhand throws and all kinds of trick throws.

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Ometaisai People – Western Tokyo

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on June 29, 2014

The more isolated the town is, in general the more local the festival gets. The grand Ometaisai in the little city of Ome in western Tokyo is a good example of a festival that is for and by the local people living in the community.

One a little peculiar thing with this festival is the massively oversized pair of hyoshigi (拍子木), two wooden blocks tied together with a rope. The blocks are banged together to make a simple and effective signal able to carry over the noise of the festival. Usually they are much smaller, but in Ome the ones used are positively huge. There are a few festivals in central Tokyo that also uses these kind of large hyoshigi. The head of the neighborhood has to be really careful not to catch his finger while clapping!

Each neighborhood team fields a slightly different troupe, some of them have groups of young girls and sometimes boys dressed as little geisha, and they all wear differently colored happi, the short colorful coat worn by all participants in a festival. I especially liked the yellow happi of the people of Hinatawada (日向和田) a few kilometers down the road from Ome Station. Their happi features a matoi, one of my favorite Japanese objects! It is a tasseled pole used traditionally by firefighters from all over the country.

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