This year’s New Years was spent at Yasukuni Shrine in central Tokyo. We were ushering in the year of the Sheep according to the zodiac, in addition to the wester year 2015 or the 27th Year of the reign of Emperor Heisei or the year 2675 according to the old Japanese Imperial reckoning. As usual there was plenty of people, lost of food stands and as always the different scout groups stood at attention around the fires. Hatsumode is the traditional first visit to a shrine in the new year and most people perform it within a few days of January first, if not at midnight itself!
The other week I visited the famous Yasukuni Shrine in the heart of Tokyo to see their beautiful sando, sacred approaching path lined by yellowing ginko trees. The light up was organized at the same time as a sake festival and there lots of stands to get food and drink While plenty of people were taking advantage of this I spent most of my time closer to the shrine to see the views of the closed front gate and the lit yellow leaves of the trees.
Yesterday I rushed through one of my favorite festivals here in Tokyo, the massive Mitamamatsuri at the Yasukuni Shrine. Yesterday was the start of the four day event that goes on until Wednesday. Since it was a Sunday there were more people than I have ever seen at this festival before, but the rest of festival should not be so crowded. If you are in Tokyo today or this week, you really should go!
If you are in Tokyo mid-July you could do worse than to visit the massive Mitama matsuri at Tokyo’s famous Yasukuni shrine July 13th to 16th. The Mitama matsuri is most easily explained as a Shinto All Hallows Eve, where the souls of the dead are revered in special ceremonies all over the country. Some shrines though make a bigger event of it, especially those that have been consecrated to enshrine a large number of souls, like the Yasukuni Shrine. The festival is a grand mix of the mitama ceremonies, gorgeous lit lanterns, war remembrance, festival food and drink, traditional performances of everything from taiko drummers to local festivals from far away prefectures.
About 300 000 typically visit during the festival so it is easily one of the most crowded events in Tokyo. There are also opportunities to visit the Yasukuni museum, see the Zero fighter on display and even try some Curry flavored soda, Imperial Navy style!
Getting to Yasukuni is easy since it is conveniently located in the heart of Tokyo. Kudanshita station is the closest, but you can also use Iidabashi (if you prefer JR) or Ichigaya stations (slightly longer to walk).