Although the big awaodori festival season here in Tokyo is over there are still a few festivals outside of Tokyo, like last Saturday’s Kawasaki Awaodori in neighboring Kanagawa Prefecture. I arrived very late but managed to enjoy about half of the teams. Either I was lucky or the festival management has really managed to get a lot of good teams together. The quality was quite high and unlike most Awaodori festivals where the parade is the main even the festival in Kawasaki as all about each team’s set piece performance. The biggest new discovery of this year’s festival was the Nansuiren, a very small team that only started in 2009 in neighboring Machida City, which is part of Tokyo. The team has a good homepage here, and has even put up an mp3 recording of the classical music piece around which all awaodori centers. I recommend listening to it or downloading it! This is one team I will definitively be keeping an eye out for!
Sunday was the main day of the large Konnohachimangu festival, or the Shibuya festival. Lots of omikoshi (not as old as the one I blogged about yesterday) gathered for the main blessing ceremony right in front of the famous 109 department store just a stone’s throw from the even more famous Shibuya Scramble street crossing (arguably the center of Japan today). The streets were packed with the many different neighborhood omikoshi, and even though Shibuya is hardly a residential area these days there were plenty of volunteers from outside of the area as well. Although the main ceremony was over in a few minutes the omikoshi teams kept going for hours afterwards, all around Shibuya!
If you are in Tokyo this weekend and want to experience the fun, music and bustle of a traditional festival you could pick the grand Konnohachimangu Matsuri (渋谷金王八幡宮例大祭) which takes place on both Saturday and Sunday in and around the grand shrine in Shibuya. The festival has everyting: gorgeous and energetic Awaodori at the shrine itself, huge lit paper sculptures of the Nebuta at the Center Gai, omikoshi careening all over Shibuya, folk singing and tons of other events. Even rowing gangs of taiko drummer and impromptu karaoke contests!
There are also plenty of other festivals taking place this weekend like the Hikawa Shrine Matsuri which starts tonight in Akaska, or the Ark Hills Autumn festival also in Akasaka, or the Ikebukuro Brazilian festival, or the Sakurashinmachi Nebuta festival tomorrow.
These photos from all around the festival area is from last year’s festival. Shibuya is an interesting place and packed with people even on normal days, add the weekend shoppers, the foreign tourists and a full on traditional festival and you get a very interesting mix of people and purposes! The three day long weekend means that many festivals carry on until Monday the 15th, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to visit as many festivals as you want!
At the first evening of the annual Mitaka Awaodori festival last weekend I saw the fabulous Hachamecharen (波奴連) perform their set piece right at the end of the parade ground. Easily one of the best spots to enjoy this great festival. This group is based in western Tokyo’s Musashi Koganei. As with most local teams (teams that have strong roots in a location rather then being corporate based or traditional) their home turf performances are considerably larger than when they are “away”. If you were to see them at the annual Koganei Awaodori festivel you’d find there would be many more of them! Still, size is never a criteria in Awaodori, just spirit and dedication, and this group has both of that. I am already looking forward to next year’s Awaodori season even though this year’s season isn’t over yet.