More photos from the grand Mitama Matsuri taking place at Tokyo’s centrally located Yasukuni Shrine, from Monday to Thursday this year. I was there on the first day of the festival to see the beautiful Omikoshi (portable shrine) being carried all the way up the shrine, pausing a few times on the way to let the people carrying it catch their breath. This is one of the most prestigious omikoshi in the capital, so there is quite a lot (good hearted, usually, but not always) jostling for the most honorable spots underneath it! A few people also took the opportunity to pose with the omikoshi before the last spurt under the great gatehouse. Since the festival is tied in with the traditional tanabata celebrations there are usually some very colorful decorations hanging from the front of the grand gatehouse.
If you are in Tokyo, don’t miss the last day of the festival tomorrow! It is better than ever this year!
Monday was the start of the famous Mitama Matsuri at one of Tokyo’s most influential shrines, the Yasukini Jinja. This year the festival is very different from previous years though, in one very obvious way – there are no food stalls (yatai)! A few months ago it was decided by the shrine to ban all eating, drinking and food stands outside and around the shrine (with the exception of a few vending machines for drinks and the cafes and restaurants run by the shrine itself. The reason for this harsh decision which made the news in both papers and TV, was that the drinking and party aspect of the festival had gone out of hand in the last few years. The shrine wanted to get back to a cleaner, more respectful and traditional festival. As you can see, the atmosphere of the festival changed quite a bit! If I have to give my opinion on the shrines decision, I would have to agree 100% with them. I am absolutely not against the yatai, and they are an important part of any Japanese summer festival, but there are hundreds of other festivals in Tokyo alone, where anyone can to enjoy the food part of the classic matsuri. It was actually quite nice to experience this new style of festival. Another bonus was that there were much more space available to visitors, and so movement became much easier and quicker, not much more crowded than being in Shibuya on a Saturday afternoon.
Being a huge fan of Omikoshi I made sure not to miss the first of them! The festival goes on until the 16th, with different performances, shows and music throughout the day and the evening. If you are in Tokyo, this really is a must, the start of the hot and humid summer classic Tokyo festivals!
This year I had no time to visit the famous Narita Gionsai, one of the grandest festivals in Tokyo’s easter neighbor – Chiba Prefecture. But I was passing through the city late in the evening and just by pure luck one of the Dashi that parades through the city during the two day festival just happened to pass by in front of the station! It looked just as fun as I remember it from last year. Maybe I will get a chance to visit next year, this time for longer than a three minute walk around the station!
Earlier today the grand Narita Gionsai started and it will continue all through the weekend. In my opinion this is one of the most interesting festivals in Chiba, complete with lots of colorful customs, some great grand dashi (mobile festival platforms) being pulled up and down narrow old streets and steep hills, as well as one of the Kanto regions more well preserved old merchant towns. If you are in the Kanto area this weekend I recommend a visit!