One thing you will almost always find at a traditional Japanese festival is the taiko troupe. Taiko drummers are used at most festivals to entertain or cheer the omikoshi carriers on. Sometimes at the shrine itself, near it, or somewhere along the route. I once visited a festival where they used the taiko drummers to calm the excited omikoshi crews down a little bit. Here at the Yoyogi Hachimangu festival which took place last week in Tokyo’s Shibuya ward there was a short performance to mark the half time of the omikoshi circuit around the parish. Taiko drummers are impossible to record correctly, the only way to experience it is to actually be there, and feel the drums in your body!
Like last year I went to the Nezu Shrine festival, but this time my main goal was to watch the fantastic performance by the Nezu Gongendaiko (根津権現太鼓) taiko drum group. Unfortunately rains kept them from performing for a while so they only gave a short version of their regular performance but it was still great. Taiko drumming is essentially a group effort. Team play is hugely important and also much more interesting to watch. It takes a huge amount of training to become as good as this group, but most schools have taiko groups so there are a lot of people with the potential to move forward. Taiko drumming is also very open to change. Many free groups are experimenting with the style and you never quite know what to expect when watching a performance. The future looks very bright for Taiko drumming!
The Nezu Shrine on the edge of Bunkyo Ward but very close to the neighboring Taito Ward in the old heart of Tokyo is a great setting for a summer festival. The shrine buildings are interesting enough but there’s also plenty of topography, a bridge and a few ponds. One of my favorite shrines in Tokyo the festival is also one of my favorites. I hardly had time to visit this year so I just came for one of the taiko performances but since it was delayed due to the sudden rain (taiko drums and rain does not go well together) I had time to aim my camera at other things for a few minutes. I’ll post images from the taiko performance later!
Nezu Shrine is easy to access from Nezu or Sendagi stations on the Chiyoda subway line, or you can use the Todaimae station on the Namboku line. If you want to do some sight seeing I can really recommend the nice and quiet little neighborhood to the east of the shrine down to the famous Ueno park and the nearby Ueno station. A longer but interesting walk.
The season for late summer festivals are not over yet! If you are in Tokyo today I recommend heading over to the Nezu Shrine right on the edge of Bunkyo Ward, not far from Ueno. It has a little bit of everything, performances, omikoshi, yatai (food and games stands) and ceremonies. Lots of fun for any age! I especially enjoy the all-female taiko drummers, whom also performed twice yesterday.
Yesterday’s festival was punctuated by a bit of rain but today looks like it will be drier. I took these photos during last year’s festival when the weather was fantastic.