Tokyobling's Blog

Shibuya Matsuri this Weekend

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

The big Shibuya festival has started, which means that most (all?) shrines in Shibuya will be pooling their resources and manpower to create one huge festival in the center of town. The main even is on the Sunday but there will be plenty of performances, omikoshi, traditional stage plays and music all over the Shibuya area starting… last week. If you are in town and want to see a little bit of a modern traditional festival, I recommend coming down to Shibuya!

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Shibuya Matsuri – Omikoshi

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on November 30, 2013

I took these photos after the rain we had during this year’s Shibuya festival let up. The omikoshi of the famous Dogenzaka neighborhood that traditionally starts in front of Shibuya station and goes up towards Shinsen station was out in force, the only concession to the rain being the plastic wrapped around the paper lanterns.

The origins of the name Dogenzaka is contested, but the slope can be named after an old temple that used to be located on the top of the hill. During the Edo period the road was surrounded by wild woods and fields with a clear view of Mount Fuji at the end. As Edo became Tokyo in the later part of the 19th century Dogenzaka became a market place for farmers selling their produce and Shibuya was developed as modern westernized town with electric street lights and everything. These days it is hard to believe that Dogenzaka was ever anything else than highly developed commercial district, but in fact there is a short row of five buildings that are almost 90 years old and survived several earthquakes and a World War. I will save that story for a later blog post though. There are a few interesting photos on this site of old historical Dogenzaka.

I was suprised to read that 758 people are officially registered as living in Dougenzaka, I think quite a good percentage of them joined in the Shibuya festival and helped carry their omikoshi, men, women and quite a lot of kids! They did a great job stopping the traffic while the omikoshi slowly passed.

Someday I would love to talk to someone who was born and lived all their life in Dogenzaka. They must have some incredible stories to tell!

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Shibuya Festival – Maruyamacho

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on September 19, 2013

Easily the best thing about the festivals, that part which strike me hardest, is the way that the festivals take precedence over everything else. There are no city officials, no policmen, just the local community coming together and enacting the rites of their fathers and father’s fathers before them, and so on, for as long as people have lived in this area (in this case, over 900 years). The omikoshi of Maruyamacho (円山町) stopped traffic and commandeered the streets in their procession through the heart of modern and commercial Shibuya. It was great to see everything stopping around them as they made their way to the big scramble street crossing in front of Shibuya station. I walk these streets often and it’s good to see the connection between the hyper modern fashion sensitive Shibuya and the ancient folk traditions and religions of the local community.

The standard garment for any festival in Japan is the hanten (半纏), a lose coat worn on top of almost anything. Some them are huge, of lose material and favored by for example yosakoi dancers, some are very hard and tightly woven with large threads and fire resistant, the perfect body armor for firefighters. The standard hanten though, can be of almost any material. Some people go ahead and get personalized collars that they attach to their hanten, usually with their personal names or family names and sometimes family crests or club allegiance or official titles. In this case, it is a small crest of Shibuya above the name. On the back of the hanten, you’ll usually find the sedaimon or semon which is usually the crest or symbol of the neighborhood or association. Hanten also make nice souvenirs, especially if you are into antique ones, usually very small.

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