Tokyobling's Blog

This Weekend – Kuramae Festival

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on June 4, 2015

This weekend is practically shock full of festivals all over Japan, not the least all over Tokyo and nearby Yokohama! It is impossible to see even tiny part of all the festivals taking place so pick one or two and make the most of it! One of my personal favorites, and a good one for foreign tourists not used to or not very interested in hanging out with the huge crowds many festivals draw, is the comparably tiny Kuramae Matsuri, in Tokyo’s Taito Ward. The tiny shrine of Kuramae is not only so small that it flies under the radar of most festival aficionados, it also boasts what is often called the most beautiful Omikoshi in all of Edo. Granted, unless you are well studied up on the minute differences between different omikoshi, you are not likely to see much that is special, but the overall look of the omikoshi is nevertheless spectacular. You can use the tags at the end of the post to find more about this shrine, this omikoshi and this festival.

Many festivals feature taiko drummers giving performances once or twice along the festival route, when I visited the Kuramae Matsuri in 2013 I took these photos of a fairly large troupe doing their best to stay in the shadows, as the sun was fairly brutal that day. Taiko drumming is another one of the many “must see in real life” experiences that should be on the top of any tourist’s to see list when visiting Japan!

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Komagatado Hall – Asakusa

Posted in Places by tokyobling on May 9, 2014

It is March 18th 628 A.D., and two fishermen, Hinokuma Hamanari and his brother Takenari are out fishing in the Sumida River when their accidentally pull up a strange statue. The village headman identifies it as a statue of the important Buddhist deity Bodhisattva Kannon. The headman took vows and devoted his life to the preaching of buddhism and even his home was remade into a buddhist temple. This is the foundation story of today’s massive Sensoji in Tokyo’s Asakusa district and the background to the equally massive Sanja Matsuri attracting millions of tourists and participants in Tokyo each May.

To commemorate the actual spot where the statue was pulled up a smaller temple was founded, the Komagatado, that exists in the same location this side, with its back towards the river, facing west. The temple has been destroyed in many fires and wars, and the structure we see today was built in 2003. Apart from the 19th of every month when the temple is open to visitors, nothing much goes on here despite it being such a historic spot. I passed a couple of times in the last couple of months and tried to get some photos worthy of showing you, but alas, I think this historic woodblock print by the master Hokusai (1760-1849) is as atmospheric as it will ever get (see the last image).

Since the history of this Sensoji and the Sanja Matsuri ties in with this little temple and the festival takes place later this month I thought now would be a good time to introduce it!

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Bandai HQ Anime Statues – Kuramae

Posted in Places by tokyobling on March 28, 2014

Bandai, one of Japan’s biggest toy companies and certainly the most famous Japanese toy company in the world (ever heard of Tamagochi?), has their corporate headquarters and showrooms in Tokyo’s Kuramae district, not far from Asakusa. Well, they were independent until 2006 when they merged with entertainment giant Namco and is now part of the Bandai-Namco group. When I was a kid we didn’t have any Japanese toys but we did have a battered old Bandai toy catalog that was handed around like a treasured tract promising toys that we kid could only dream of.

I passed their HQ a little while ago and took these photos of the spanking new statues showing some of the main characters of their most famous brands and games. How many can you recognize? Even after having been a Bandai fan all of my life i had trouble naming all of these. To find them simply walk along the main street from Asakusa towards Asakusabashi Station or Kuramae station, along the Edo Street or Edo-doori.

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Kurame Shrine Festival

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on June 25, 2013

Kuramae Shrine might not throw the biggest festival in Tokyo, in fact it might be one of the smallest, but there’s no shortage of energy in it! The official shrine omikoshi was carried around accompanied by a hayashi (folk music) team and at the end, just after the festival has officially been closed I hung around in the back to see how they managed to get the omikoshi into its shrine again. This omikoshi is several tons of weight and there’s very little room inside the shrine but they got it in safely in the end.

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