This weekend sees several festivals take place all over Tokyo, not least the fairly massive Ikebukuro Matsuri. The main area of the festival is in the West exit area of the JR Ikebukuro Station, so it will be hard to miss it. Most of the actual parade ground will be closed to people not participating (those wearing a happi coat) but this means it is easy to find a good spot along the route and get a good look at the many omikohisi, lantern teams and even dancers or taiko drummers performing. After the main event is finished you can catch up with omikoshi and get a closer look here and there around the station. Not to be missed if you have some free time!
If you are in Tokyo this weekend and not interested in the massive Kawagoe festival taking place in Saitama Prefecture just north of Tokyo I recommend visiting the far smaller but almost as crowded Oeshiki ceremony at Kishibojin in Zoshigaya, a 10 minute walk south of Ikebukuro station. Kishibojin temple is one of those religious mysteries of which there are so many in Japan. Even the name is unclear as it changes from different maps and signs, and it is a hybrid Shrine/Temple celebrating Oeshiki which is a distinctly buddhist ceremony a week later than all the other Oeshiki ceremonies, it is officially called a shrine but it has no torii gate but a small Inarijinja. I have visited dozens of times but I still haven’t unravelled this one. More studies needed!
Yesterday when I took these photos was the first evening of the three night event. Tonight and tomorrow will be much bigger with thousands of people taking part and as many onlookers crowding the narrow streets leading up to Kishibojin temple. Like at the Oeshiki in the main Nichiren temple in Ikegami last week, there are lots of matoi dancers as well as the larger mando. It is considered good luck to touch one of the white paper flowers and you can even buy them to decorate your home altar at a small stand inside the temple, but unlike the main ceremony in Ikegami touching them is not encouraged and I have never seen anyone doing it, so it is probably better to ask before reaching out and getting some of that good luck!
Photographing this even it extremely difficult, fast moving, dark and quite introverted this is not a photogenic festival despite all the fantastic things going on! Also, if you are into amezaiku the man at Zoshigaya this weekend is really talented. Also, while visiting the festival you can check out what is probably the oldest kiosk in continuous operation in the world, having started in 1781!
Two weekends ago I visited the annual Ikebukuro Matsuri, which is the biggest festival in Toshima Ward, one of the biggest of the 23 central Tokyo special wards. At one time Ikebukuro was famous for being the spot in the world with more square feet department store than anywhere else, but the recent death of department stores have lead to there being of these. The number of visitors to the festival keeps increasing however, with this year’s festival the busiest ever. I arrived very late to the West exit area of Ikebukuro but saw my favorite omikoshi in Tokyo – the death defying balls of steel no fear omikoshi (as I call it). They stop regularly on their route and tip the omikoshi violently and rapidly back and forth, urging each other to go deeper and deeper. I can not imagine anything that would bring me more mortal fear than being underneath this omikoshi as it tips over, a ton of wood and steel being inches from crushing you stopped at the last moment by tired, sweaty, possibly drunk, neighbors and friends. Still, it is utterly fascinating to watch. Like bungee jumping, but the other way around.
Ikebukuro is famous for being far more rough and tumble than the rest of Tokyo so it is only natural that their festivals take on a slightly wilder nature!
Although the many omikoshi is the main draw of the festival (there are dozens) a lot of people come for the music performances, food stalls, Okinawan dance troupes and taiko drummers. It is an interesting festival to watch!
One of the first thing you’ll notice when visiting Tokyo is that in the evenings, more than half of the traffic on the roads are usually taxis. Tokyo taxis are parts of the visual make up of the city and I know many photographers and tourists who have a soft spot for the mostly yellow, green and red taxi cars! They’re a given for any collection of “the” Tokyo tourist photo collection!
A fun thing you can do with almost any camera to get some interesting travel photography is “tracking traffic”. I took these photos outside Tokyo’s Ikebukuro JR station a while ago of the traffic zooming past the station. Tracking shots like this are really easy to do but sometimes tricky to get just right. What you do is move the camera to follow the car or object, blurring the background but (hopefully) keeping the moving object razor sharp.
I set the camera to 1/10s, f10, and ISO 500 for this fairly bright city street. Then I waited for a car to come into my viewfinder. I follow the car with my camera and while moving, press the shutter, keep following (or tracking) the car and don’t stop until the picture is done. Repeat, try different settings, and enjoy!
No photoshop was used to alter these images.