Tokyobling's Blog

This Weekend – Kuramae Festival

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on June 4, 2015

This weekend is practically shock full of festivals all over Japan, not the least all over Tokyo and nearby Yokohama! It is impossible to see even tiny part of all the festivals taking place so pick one or two and make the most of it! One of my personal favorites, and a good one for foreign tourists not used to or not very interested in hanging out with the huge crowds many festivals draw, is the comparably tiny Kuramae Matsuri, in Tokyo’s Taito Ward. The tiny shrine of Kuramae is not only so small that it flies under the radar of most festival aficionados, it also boasts what is often called the most beautiful Omikoshi in all of Edo. Granted, unless you are well studied up on the minute differences between different omikoshi, you are not likely to see much that is special, but the overall look of the omikoshi is nevertheless spectacular. You can use the tags at the end of the post to find more about this shrine, this omikoshi and this festival.

Many festivals feature taiko drummers giving performances once or twice along the festival route, when I visited the Kuramae Matsuri in 2013 I took these photos of a fairly large troupe doing their best to stay in the shadows, as the sun was fairly brutal that day. Taiko drumming is another one of the many “must see in real life” experiences that should be on the top of any tourist’s to see list when visiting Japan!

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Kurame Shrine Festival

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on June 25, 2013

Kuramae Shrine might not throw the biggest festival in Tokyo, in fact it might be one of the smallest, but there’s no shortage of energy in it! The official shrine omikoshi was carried around accompanied by a hayashi (folk music) team and at the end, just after the festival has officially been closed I hung around in the back to see how they managed to get the omikoshi into its shrine again. This omikoshi is several tons of weight and there’s very little room inside the shrine but they got it in safely in the end.

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Kuramae Shrine

Posted in Places by tokyobling on June 23, 2013

In Tokyo’s Taito ward you’ll find the little Kuramae Shrine (蔵前神社). With the main entrance in front of a convenience store and a smaller entrance next to a Sushi restaurant, it might not look like much, but it has a nice festival to its name and is famous through the traditional storytelling, rakugo, theme of a white dog that really wanted to became a human and got his wish through praying at this shrine. The dog is now represented by a statue on the temple grounds. The original model of the statue is a 4 year old Hokkaido breed, Nana.

I went there on the morning of a festival and saw the priest prepare the white slips of papers where the sponsors of the festival are shown. I also saw the beautifully-retro designed map of the route of the shrine omikoshi, probably made back in the days when anything important enough to be printed was also important enough to be printed well.

The shrine is also closely associated to sumo wrestling, one of the reasons being that here in Kuramae was the site of the main wrestling arena from 1950 to 1984. Professional sumo wrestling was officially transformed into a sport in 1684, at the Tomioka Hachimangu of which this shrine is a part.

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