Tokyobling's Blog

Hachioji Grand Festival

Posted in Japanese Traditions, Places by tokyobling on August 13, 2015

I missed the grand festival in Tokyo’s western city of Hahicoji that took place last weekend. It is one of my favorite festivals so I am a little miffed that I could not go. Instead I dug around among the photos I took of last year’s festival and found these, of the giant dashi right during the magic blue hour! The red light of the lanterns to the wooden browns of the costumes and the dashi look great contrasted with the rich blue of that time of the early evening. Of course seeing the real thing is best photos will have to do in this for this blog!

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This Weekend – Hachioji Matsuri

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on August 7, 2015

If you are in Tokyo over the weekend and want to see or do something special there is nothing I would recommend more than the famous Hachioji Matsuri, one of the biggest festival in Western Tokyo. It is a little bit of a train ride from central Tokyo but less than an hour from most points in the city I think. The festival is scattered all over central Hachioji, but the main action is on the main road near the station, where the giant Dashi are being pulled back and forth throughout the day and the evening. Apart from the there are also plenty of Hayashi (traditional live festival music), omikoshi, dances, rituals, geisha, etc. This festival is easily one of the most “complete” of the big summer festivals in Tokyo! I took these in the scorching hot festival last year but this year looks to be even hotter!

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Hachioji Matsuri – Preparing the Parade

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on August 22, 2013

The bigger the town, the bigger the festival, and the bigger the festival the bigger the parade! As anyone who has been part of a large ceremony knows, there is a lot of waiting involved! I walked around at the head start area of one of the first of the many parades on this day, one of three days making up the festival period, and grabbed the opportunity to take some photos of the parade as it gets ready to move ahead. There are shrine maidens, priests, men carrying holy items, the omikoshi teams, dashi (huge mobile votive platforms) for entertainment and banner carriers and musicians of all kinds. It can imagine it takes a lot of experience and many years in the community to learn to manage this. Just look at the cool older men in charge of it all!

These kinds of festivals are not solely for fun and entertainment or even religion and tradition. The kinds of skills and community relations needed to pull a massive festival like this through without the use any sort of technology higher than a notepad, are skills that are vital in protecting the community in case disaster or war strikes. If you and your neighbors can navigate and arrange even a small part of a festival like this, you will be able to quickly organize vital life lines in case of a big earthquake, or rescue teams when large fires or floods happen. You will also know each other, the neighborhood, who to go to, who the natural leaders are, what kind of skills people have and what you can expect from people when things get tricky. I saw this with my own eyes in 2011 at the tsunami disaster area, and as much as I hate to imagine it, there will be more disasters, large and small, here in Japan. So the next time you see the old dudes and ladies staring silently out over a festival in full swing, you know that they are probably both proud over a job well done and happy over their heard-earned skills!

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Hachioji Festival – Nakamachi Kuroko

Posted in Japanese Traditions, Places, Shops by tokyobling on August 17, 2013

One of the most gorgeous of the many neighborhood traditional dashi teams at the huge Hachioji festival in Tokyo’s western Hachioji City was the Nakamachi (中町). Not only did they provide some excellent hayashi music, colorful road decorations and a beautifully lit dashi (mobile festive stage wagon) with handsome liveried crew, they also had a most unusual doll performing the hayashi dances. Dolls or puppets are traditionally handled by black clad and masked kuroko (黒子), who are not supposed to be seen or acknowledged by the audience in a kabuki theatre or puppet show. They are also the originators of the popular look of the ninja, as their special look and role on stage blended perfectly with the image of the stealthy assassins. The real ninja would probably never dress in something so conspicuous as an all black fighting suit! At normal kabuki shows the kuroko are dressed in black and functions like stage hands or assistants to the actors, but in certain scenes they can wear all white (in a snow filled winter scene) or all blue (on an ocean scene). If you visit a festival in Japan and see a dashi with one of these kuroko you are lucky indeed!

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