Whenever I visit shrines around Japan I always make a point of taking a look at their Ema, or votive plates, little wooden plates that you buy, write your wishes or prayers upon and then hang at the shrine, to enlist the help of the Gods in making your prayers come true. You can sometimes learn what a particular shrine is famous for, as well as get a good insight in what kind of people visit it by reading what they are wishing for. Sometimes however, you find these hand drawn anime or manga ema motives, usually by some die hard fans of a particular anime featuring the city or town or even shrine in their stories. Chichibu is one of those towns that have had the good fortune to be the setting for a famous anime and these ema are there to prove it! You can find other posts about more traditional ema by clicking the ema tag at the the end of the post.
Here’s a few photos of kids that I saw at the fantastic Chichibu Night Festival in western Saitama prefecture north of Tokyo, December last year. I think the first photo would do nicely in my “handsome fathers with their kids” ongoing photos project! Maybe I should create a tag for those photos? I also loved how the two cool little men climbed the high wall – sometimes Japanese parents are refreshingly liberal with their kids, not to mention the little girl who took her father’s fan and started to direct the festival float from her spot high up! She was just too adorable not to share with the world! The future of Japan is looking bright! Read more posts about the Chichibu Night festival here!
One of the views and shots I always try to get in a festival is the “approach” of a festival team, a cart or a group. It just looks so magnificent when they come towards you, often on almost empty streets. I love how the festival takes the place of the ordinary running of the town, when even police cars and busses have to give way. It is rare in any modern society to see such scenes that are peaceful at the same time. Here’s one of the three teams that commandeered the town of Chichibu in the grand Night Festival in the beginning of this month. The festival carts, or dashi, are really magnificent and are pulled by the citizens themselves, even kids and teenagers pitch in to help out! The cart has entrances to the back and the front but these are usually used for ceremonial purposes, the men manning the cart from the roof enter through a trap door underneath the wagon. Most people who participate wear traditional festival coats with their names or the names of the group they belong to printed or embroidered. Many groups of friends take pride in wearing the best looking uniforms and especially young women take the chance to get their hair done in some really extravagant styles! The vast majority of festivals are supremely peaceful but in some rougher neighborhoods young men of different teams sometimes flex their muscles in front of rival teams. This festival in Saitama prefecture north of Tokyo though, is one of the best winter time festivals in Japan! You can see my other posts about this festival here.
At the Chichibu Night Festival, the Chichibuyo Matsuri (秩父夜祭) in Saitama prefecture just north of Tokyo I saw this wonderful little dancers perform on one of the giant dashi (festival carts). It’s the first time I see Japanese traditional dance where the performer is dressed like this. Even though it is a night festival, the day is full of performances and events. The little dancer was accompanied by a couple of shamisen players.
As a bonus, I leave you with the final picture, which contains a few words of wisdom regarding parenthood, a fitting theme I think. Maybe some of my native English speaking readers could have a go at translating it for us? My English would not do justice to the beautiful Japanese message. Enjoy the weekend everyone!