A few weeks ago I visited the city of Mishima in eastern Shizuoka Prefecture to the west of Tokyo just to enjoy their big summer festival. It was a three day event full of performances and culture but this time I could only take part in the first two days of events. This festival too has as one of its main features the giant dash, huge festival platforms pulled about by towns people. In Mishima City most of the townspeople seems to take turns being on top of the floats, with lots of flutes and drums to try and outperform each other! It is great fun to watch and enthusiasm and energy is really heart warming. The dashi are also unusually decorated with masses of lanterns hanging up front, making it a bright and colorful festival.
If you are in the area or feel like getting out of Tokyo for a couple of days I can really recommend Mishima, with maybe a day tour to Numazu City nearby or even as far as Kakegawa City or Atami City. They are good even when there are no festivals!
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!
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!
The festival floats at the annual summer festival in Sawara City in northern Chiba is something special, famous for their huge top decorations, some lifelike images of Gods and heroes, others are more stylistic (and moving!) representations of animals and spirits. There are two major festivals in Sawara City, both drawing thousands of tourists and participants. Each of the two festivals are sponsored by one of the two shrines separated by the Onogawa River. The summer festival is traditionally under the domain of the eastern Yasaka Shrine, in the Honjuku part of town. Note the solid wooden wheels of the wagons, or dashi, as they are called, and the painted poles used to maneuver them. The pole in the close up looks almost unused, which you can tell from the fact that the end looks flat and neat. When the wagons have been maneuvered around the narrow streets and bridges of the town the poles look more like massive and badly sharpened pencils and there are splinters all over town! More photos of this fantastic festival to come!