Tokyobling's Blog

Riding the Omikoshi at Kanda Myojin

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on June 25, 2015

The Grand Kanda Myojin, the Greatest of all shrines in Tokyo is actually a conglomerate of several smaller shrines surrounding it. One of these shrines is the original Edo Shrine, and naturally their omikoshi (portable shrine) that carries the shrine gods is one of the biggest and most splendid in the capital. At the Kanda Matsuri it is taken out once every two years and as it enters the shrine precinct for the last time on the last evening, three men ride it in order to guide it properly to the priests waiting. The entrance of this omikoshi into the shrine is maybe the most eagerly awaited points of the festival, as over 200 locals guide carry it forward, not all at the same time, but naturally everyone wants to take part in this honorable endeavor so there is a lot of jostling to get the coveted places under the omikoshi!

As I watched several people around me were arguing whether one, two or maybe all three of them would fall of this year, as sometimes happen – the ride is everything but smooth! But one woman in the audience near us quieted everyone with a sharp “Hush you fools – no one is falling off this year!” And as you can see it turned out she was completely correct.

Being underneath even a small omikoshi is terrifying, but this one is huge! I can only imagine how scary it must be to be on top! Most of this omikoshi was made in Tokyo in 1958, but some parts have come all the way from Osaka. Both workshops are the most prestigious omikoshi makers in the country.

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Kanda Matsuri Shishigashira – Lion Heads

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on June 22, 2015

One of the most powerful symbols of the great Kanda Matsuri that took place last month at one of Tokyo’s great shrines, the Kanda Myojin, is the entrance of the two Shishigashira, lion heads, into the shrine itself. One male, and one female, their role is to protect the processions of the shrine festival, and when they finally enter the shrine on the last night they are carried on wooden beams by an all female team. Accompanying them are a set of large traditional drums played by young girls, in a very unusual and ominous style of rhythm. It sounds like nothing else I have heard at a Japanese festival. Since this year’s festival was the 400th, the shrine was crowded beyond capacity. The police and the shrine guards could impossible contain the crowds so the women had to really battle their way to the front of the shrine and receive the final blessing from the head priest. The large golden heads looked amazing!

The original shrine Shishigashira were both destroyed in the Great Kanto Earthquake in the 1920s, and these were recreated from photos and drawings in 1983.

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Kanda Matsuri Beauties

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on June 10, 2015

Last months Kanda Matsuri was more spectacular than ever – it was the 400th anniversary of the Shrine’s founding, and the parades were longer and more varied than usual. On the first of the big parade days, the Shinkosai, I spotted these beauties, temple maidens. The girls are wearing the Ichimegaza, 市女笠, costumes.

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More Kanda Matsuri Shinkousai

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People by tokyobling on May 13, 2015

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!

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