The great Sanja Matsuri is not the only festival taking place in Tokyo during the third weekend in May, one that is often overlooked is the comparatively tiny Onoterusaki Shrine festival in nearby Iriya. It is heaps more kid friendly and the local streets are basically taken over by kids and families having a good time. With just a couple of Omikoshi and a single tiny dashi it is a hundred times smaller than the nearby giant festival of Sanja. I took these photos of the kids in the local Hayashi team as they performed for the festival goers and the omikoshi teams. Hayashi is the name of the traditional kind of music you see and hear at festivals, always with at least drums and flutes, but sometimes other instruments or dancers are added. The kids were as great as ever! They’ll be professional by the time they grow up!
Easily one of the most seen but least visited shrines in Japan is the tiny Omatsu Inari Shrine very close to the large Omotesando street crossing. Technically the address of the shrine is in Minamiaoyama, but most people would recognize it as a place in Omotesando more than anything else. It has quite a few illustrious brand name shops for close neighbors so there are tens of thousands of people passing it most days, despite this I have never seen anyone enter it.
The name, Omatsu, which means large pine, comes from the fact that until 1839 there was a huge pine tree right on this spot, it grew so large that people would come to venerate it. As it broke during a storm a tiny shrine was erected over the tee stump and it remains there today, even long after anyone who has ever seen the pine has passed away.
Since then the shrine has found a second shot of fame after having been featured in the award winning drama writer Mukoda Kuniko (向田邦子) who moved into the the fifth floor of the apartment building just next to it in 1970. I think she lived there until she died in a plane crash in Taiwan in 1981.
The shrine itself, being an inari-shrine, enshrines the diety Ukanomitama, who is often shown as a fox in Japanese mythology. I took these photos at night. For some reason I think this shrine is best visited at night, when the obvious modern surrounds are a little less obvious, giving us a chance to imagine this shrine as it must have looked in 1839.
More photos of the coast and ocean at Oarai Isosaki Jinja in Ibaraki Prefecture to the north east of Tokyo. The torii, the shrine gate, located on top of a rock in the ocean is especially photo worthy, and very popular with photographers from all over Japan. The waterfront is reached by just walking straight down from the main shrine building, passing the huge torii just before the stairs, crossing the road and then following a small path down to the water in between two buildings. If you are ever in the neighborhood I recommend it!
The great shrine of Oarai, the Isosaki Jinja start on a hill but goes all way down into the ocean, with the final piece of the shrine being the tori standing on a rock in the ocean. The torii survived the earthquake and tsunami perfectly and is as superbly photogenic as always. I googled images of it and found my own meagre snapshots amazingly lacking in doing it justice. Well, I will get more chances I hope! I love this particular piece of the coast, the Pacific Ocean is pretty powerful here and although it might now look too much on the surface the water is full of currents making swimming and surfing too hazardous to attempt. So most people come here to enjoy just looking at the ocean, or going for a swim in some of the more sheltered coves and harbors that can be found here and there. More photos to come!