Tokyobling's Blog

Kanda Matsuri Shishigashira – Lion Heads

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on June 22, 2015

One of the most powerful symbols of the great Kanda Matsuri that took place last month at one of Tokyo’s great shrines, the Kanda Myojin, is the entrance of the two Shishigashira, lion heads, into the shrine itself. One male, and one female, their role is to protect the processions of the shrine festival, and when they finally enter the shrine on the last night they are carried on wooden beams by an all female team. Accompanying them are a set of large traditional drums played by young girls, in a very unusual and ominous style of rhythm. It sounds like nothing else I have heard at a Japanese festival. Since this year’s festival was the 400th, the shrine was crowded beyond capacity. The police and the shrine guards could impossible contain the crowds so the women had to really battle their way to the front of the shrine and receive the final blessing from the head priest. The large golden heads looked amazing!

The original shrine Shishigashira were both destroyed in the Great Kanto Earthquake in the 1920s, and these were recreated from photos and drawings in 1983.

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Kanda Myojin Hatsumode

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on March 10, 2015

Earlier this year the big Kanda Myojin between Ochanomizu and Akihabara station celebrated the usual hatsumode rituals with an appearance of the two gods, Ebisu and Daikokuten. I took these photos as I passed through the shrine and also took the opportunity to take some photos of the newest ema plaques to have gone up since my last visit! Some people really put a lot of effort into their ema! Of course all of these are destined for the big ritual pyre at the end of the year. You can read more about Ebisu and Daikokuten in this blog post from last year.

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Hatsumode at Kanda Myojin

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on January 26, 2015

This year I visited the famous Kanda Myojin Shrine near Akhibara for hatsumode – the first visit to a shrine of the year – pretty early in the day. Lots of people and the obligatory new year’s lion dance. I have seen dozens of lion dancers throughout my years living in Tokyo but the dancers of this troupe is by far the best so far. The most endearing part of this tradition is when they hold up the little kids to have their heads “bitten” by the lions, which is supposed to make for strong healthy children. The bravest ones go through it with a smile but the smaller kids often cry fiercely at the prospect, obviously these kids get the biggest cheers of approval from the sympathetic audience.

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Anime Ema at Kanda Myojin Shrine

Posted in Japanese Traditions, Places by tokyobling on January 23, 2015

I am still not sure when the tradition of self-decorated anime styled ema started over at the famous Kanda Myojin Shrine near Tokyo’s anime heart – Akihabara. Even then it is one of my favorite things to do in the new to visit the shrine and have a look at this year’s new ema. I visit quite early in the new year and since then I am sure there have been many additions, but these are some of the better ones I found. Normally you buy one of the plain ema at the shrine and write your prayer for the coming year, but some people take the extra step of decorating their own ema. All of these votive plates will eventually be consumed in a ritual fire that will help cleanse the prayers and the people offering them. You can see last year’s post on the same subject over here.

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