Today and tomorrow is the peak of the week long Chichibuyo Matsuri, or the the Chichibu Night Festival. It is hands down the best winter festival in the Kanto area and possibly the last great festival of the year. I would love to go there but scheduling conflicts will keep me firmly put here in Tokyo. Chichibu is located north west of Tokyo in Saitama Prefecture, and a little too far to go just for a couple of hours in the evening. If you have all day today or tomorrow I really recommend heading up there though! You can read my posts about last year’s festival over here. The best way to get from Tokyo to Chichibu is by trains leaving from Ikebukuro. There are several lines and different train options depending on your budget and it is a fantastic combination trip to see both the evening festival and the autumn leaves in nearby Nagatoro.
Another great festival that also started out as a night festival is the Kurayami Matsuri in Tokyo’s south-western Chufu City. This festival is famous for it’s massive drums that require a crew of over twenty to operate and move around. These drums are so large that two or more persons usually stand on top of them! I took these photos of the much smaller children’s drums, as well as a couple of shots of the other famous thing in the Kurayami festival, the large and colorful mantou which are spun by the largest and strongest dancers of the community. You can see my other posts about the Kurayami festival here.
The portable shrines you’ll see at most Japanese festival, the omikoshi, aren’t that heavy in themselves, usually the logs or poles that the omikoshi is carried upon weighs far more. The whole set can vary between 500-4500kg. Naturally the big ones are not suitable for kids so instead the local children are given miniature omikoshi to practice. At the Kurayami Matsuri in Tokyo’s Fuchu City I saw these mini-omikoshi being carried around town by the local kids. It was really difficult to get any decent photos, not only did I have to adjust for the glaring sun playing hide and seek between clouds, but also the kids were fast, almost running! They had crossed over the first main gate of the shrine into the inner courtyard in less than half a minute. Fuchu kids really take after their parents. The heart of the Kurayami festival is the historical Okunitama Shrine, consecrated in the year 111 A.D. The beautiful gate you see in the background though was rebuilt in 2011 A.D. and still smells of fresh wood!
Here’s a few photos of kids that I saw at the fantastic Chichibu Night Festival in western Saitama prefecture north of Tokyo, December last year. I think the first photo would do nicely in my “handsome fathers with their kids” ongoing photos project! Maybe I should create a tag for those photos? I also loved how the two cool little men climbed the high wall – sometimes Japanese parents are refreshingly liberal with their kids, not to mention the little girl who took her father’s fan and started to direct the festival float from her spot high up! She was just too adorable not to share with the world! The future of Japan is looking bright! Read more posts about the Chichibu Night festival here!
At the huge and glorious Sanjamatsuri in Tokyo’s Asakusa district earlier this month I took these snaps as a children’s omikoshi passed me on the street. The adults have their huge and probably pretty dangerous omikoshi or portable shrines, and some teams organize these tiny omioshi, often on wheels and pulled with ropes, for the youngest members of the community. Adults accompany the omikoshi and encourage the children to take full part, including screaming, chanting and drumming as much and as hard as they can. Since Japanese kids are much much more quiet than kids in all other countries I have visited, I think this screaming practice is good for them and their self confidence! And they sure look great in their patchwork festival outfits!