Although the Shishimatsuri in Tsukiji will continue, quite possible for at least another millennia or two, this year’s festival was the last one to actually enter the famous fish market, ending 86 years of tradition. The festival is named after the famous lion’s heads paraded around, but there is of course also the omikoshi present, portable shrines housing temporarily the Gods of the shrine. The priests of the shrine also participate in the parade. Each shrine has a different way of doing things, some have their priests mounted on horses, others in open cars, others on foot, or as in this one, pulled in rickshaws (jinrikisha). The parade makes frequent stops but it goes on for hours as it winds its way around the parish, so I assume the jinriksha pullers get pretty tired by the end of the day.
The Tsukiji Shishimatsuri is a three day event and I was there for the Saturday, so I only got to see part of it. We’ll have to wait until next year’s June for another chance! This time the festival will be in its shadow phase (so it will be smaller) and it won’t enter the fish market itself.
One of my favorite images in terms of pride, ritual, dignity, and tradition when it comes to the classic Japanese festivals (matsuri in Japanese) are the lantern bearers often found in front of the omikoshi. When several omikoshi team up for a parade, you get several of them lined up, forming a wall, each bearing a lantern with the name of the group or neighborhood they represent. When you have hundreds of them, as in last months massive 400 year anniversary Kanada Matsuri, you get serval opportunities to see these teams lined up and ready to go. At this festival the parades started early in the morning but the sheer size of the festival meant that most of them were not ready to even get close to the shrine until well into the evening. I took these photos near Akihabara station, as one group of omikoshi were waiting for their turn to approach the shrine. In between waiting, there was entertainment in the form of a lion dancer, performing for the kids and adults of the omikoshi teams.
At night the lantern groups look even more impressive. One day I’ll get around to posting photos of that too!
Last weekend I visited the annual Teruhime Matsuri Parade (照姫まつり) in Shakujii Park (石神井公園), a wonderful little park in Tokyo’s Nerima Ward (練馬区). I was joined with about 128 000 others to see the 100 volunteers dressing up and acting the part of three historic nobles and their entourage. The nobles in question were the prominent members of the Toshima Clan, which has given their name to Toshima Ward, Toshima Station and many other places in Tokyo. Their historic castle used to be located in this very park. The clan was most powerful from the 12th century to about 1470 when they were ousted by a rival clan, the Uesugi.
The festival started in 1988 to promote the area and its history and the volunteers taking past are selected during an audition held for the people living in Nerima Ward. The legend that is the basis of the parade is said to have taken place in 1477 when the castle was besieged by a vassal of the Uesugi clan. Rather than to risk capture the lord of the castle jumped into the lake on horseback and disappeared in the deep waters. His daughter Teruhime was so distraught that she jumped after him and she too disappeared. However there is nothing to support this legend in historical documents so it is most likely not true at all.
Apart from the festival I also got a chance to see the beautiful Shakujii Park, which is lined by some very rich mansion houses and surrounds a very nice almost lake like pond. The area is considered one of the most attractive places inside Nerima Ward. Nerima Ward however usually fails to be find itself on any top spots of attractiveness lists, even though it is widely acknowledged to be the safest of all the 23 Tokyo wards and also the one in my opinion that is the most “European in feel”. Remember where you read it first – I see great things in the future of Nerima Ward!
More photos from the Oiran parade in Tokyo’s Asakusa district last weekend. I have been going for a few years now and this year the crowd was the biggest yet. Maybe word is getting out? There is a far bigger parade with several orian in Kitashinagawa every year that has far fewer people. I guess Asakusa is just better branded than Kitashinagawa (although Kitashinagawa also lays claim to some great Godzilla fame!). The day was sunny and the crowds wild. At the end of the parade I got a chance to sneak up in front and get some group photos of the main participants just before they turned around and went to their temporary headquarters in a nearby school. I love the face one of the young assistants to the oiran is making in one of the photos, she must have had an itchy nose!
The orian have a very special way of walking, as in every third step they take they sweep their feet very low in a wide arc, difficult to catch in photos but it looks quite spectacular and is unique as far as I know. You can tell from their three-pronged (remember that normal Japanese shoes have two prongs while monks and tengu have one!) shoes and the way they are scratched bare how low they go in that special step.