Tokyobling's Blog

Shinagawa Matsuri – Omikoshi

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on June 18, 2015

The Shinagawa Matsuri a couple of weeks ago has some pretty interesting omikoshi, well known for the attached drums, which are beaten continuously during the parade. The movement style of omikoshi is also quite peculiar and has a very interesting rhythm and style. You must see it to appreciate though, as the photos do not do the movement justice! I took these photos at the shopping street leading up from neighborhood just below the shrine itself. Accompanying each omikoshi is not only the drummer, but also one or two flutists, which makes the festival even more festive than usual!

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The Mount Fuji at Shinagawa Shrine – Fujizuka

Posted in Japanese Traditions, Places by tokyobling on June 11, 2015

If you have visited a few shrines in Tokyo you are likely to have come across the concept of the Fujizuka (富士塚), which literally translates to “Mount Fuji Mound”. These mounts that are made to resemble the famous Mount Fuji are anything from a couple of meters to the biggest one at 15 meters, here in Shinagawa Shrine. The common theme is that they all contain more or less original lava stones from the real mount fuji, usually these genuine rocks are in very visible locations, more or less covering the mound. The first Fukizuka was constructed in 1780 at Takada in modern day Nishi Waseda (later relocated), and this Fujizuka in Shinagawa Shrine was built very late, which perhaps explains its size. In the old days all of these were built in locations where you could actually see the real Mount Fuji from the top, but due to the construction of tall buildings this has been lost. I think it is possible to see the mountain from this very tall Fujizuka though, but despite dozens of visits I have never managed even a glimpse.

If you visit the Shinagawa Shrine and the small and quite terrifying footpath to the top is open I recommend a climb, the views are quite good, and you can almost see down to the old Tokaido road, the main highway of old Japan. Another thing you will see a lot of are trains, as they pass right on top of the little Shimbamba Station, and if you have a keen eye you might spot the dozens of jets coming in for landing or taking off from Haneda Airport to the south west of the shrine!

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Shinagawa Shrine

Posted in Places by tokyobling on June 8, 2015

I have been to the famous Shinagawa Shrine near the little Shimbamba Station (新馬場駅) in Tokyo’s formerly seaside Shinagawa Ward dozens of times, but never when it has been this pretty and the weather this great! Founded in 1187 A.D. on the top of cliff overlooking the ocean it is now far from any water but still a great place to visit. I visited during the weekend, to enjoy the annual festival with its scary looking stair ascent for the omikoshi. More photos and history to come!

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Hikawa Shrine Festival – Akasaka

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on September 13, 2014

There are a lot of festivals going on in Tokyo this weekend, the biggest probably being the one in Shibuya that I posted yesterday, but not far behind is the Hikawa Shrine Matsuri in Tokyo’s central Akasaka (not to be confused with the very similar sounding place name Asakusa). This festival kicked off on Friday evening but I didn’t have time to visit so here are a few photos from my visit to this festival back in 2012, a couple of years ago. I have been to this festival many times and it is always fun, especially to see the large dashi, the mobile shrine platforms as they are pulled and pushed and dragged all around the narrow streets and hills of Akasaka (赤坂, even the name means Red Hill). There are two different dashi and they are used on different days, so depending on when you see them you are bound to see a different one. Dashi connoisseurs (yes there are such people!) can easily tell the difference, but less learned people like me have a bit of a hard time.

A good friend that I met by chance at a festival last weekend let me in on how omikoshi (the mobile shrines carried by parishioners around the neighborhood) are judged in action! I can’t believe I hadn’t gotten this earlier, but apparently people in the know look at the four tassels hanging around the edges of most omikoshi (the ones in this festival are blueish purple): if the tassels swing wildly in rhythm, it means that the omikoshi is moving with cheer and purpose, if they hang straight or just sort of rattle around it means the carriers are running low on energy and the proper spirit. The best way to get the tassels swinging is to cheer the carriers on which usually spurs everyone into action!

If you have time and the opportunity, don’t miss this or any of the many other big festivals this weekend!

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