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.
In June this year we saw the last ever Tsukiji Shishi Festival inside the legendary Tokyo main fish market at Tsukiji (apparently the biggest fish market in the world). The fish market, and its very own patron shrine, Suijinja, was established in 1590 when Lord Tokugawa Ieyasu based himself in the city of Edo and invited fishermen from Osaka to provide food for his castle and court. Originally it was located in the Nihonbashi area but moved to its present location in 1923 after the Great Kanto Earthquake. The fish market was built on newly reclaimed land and finished in 1935. The main Shishimatsuri has been held inside the Fish Market since then, but this was the final as it is moving to a spot near Toyosu, next to Odaiba.
Due to this being the last major festival in the beloved old fish market, the turn out was absolutely massive. Not least the number of men who carried the omikoshi. I had other things to think about than to get good photos; like avoiding being trampled by the crowds! I also got to see the absolutely tiny Suijinja which is the only shrine inside the actual market area. I am not sure but I heard that it is being moved to the new location together with the market.
The fish market itself is a huge wholesale market, where between 60 000 and 65 000 persons come to work every day, so it feels weird to be able to walk around in it like a normal festival. I can imagine it was very emotional for the old timers though!
Last month I hurried down to the famous Tokyo Tsukiji Fish Market, probably found on almost every foreign tourist visiting Tokyo, to see the last Tsukiji Shishimatsuri taking place inside the old Fish Market ground. The fish market is scheduled to close in a few months, ending a decades long history as the main fresh fish market of the Japanese capital. Usually a quite minor festival, this one was a little bit special and it was wonderful to have had the chance to see the gates of the Fish Market open one last time for huge black toothed lion’s head, the priests, and the omikoshi (portable shrine) belonging to the local Jinja. More photos and stories from this festival to come!
The season for Bonodori, one of many Japanese dances, is upon us! One of the first big Bonodori festivals for me this year was yesterday at the huge Tsukiji Honaji temple, near Tokyo’s Ginza district. Bonodori generally takes place around a raised podium that is topped by one or two taiko drummers, while the second raised level is used by a group of very experienced bonodori dancers that show the moves to the general audience at street level. Anyone is welcome to join but I have never managed to get the hang of it. The music is slow and reminds most people of enka, the traditional Japanese “pops” so popular with most people over the age of 70 here in Japan. Every song in bonodori is associated with its own set of movements, hence the need to more experienced dancers to lead the dance from a visible spot in the middle!
It was also fun to walk around the temple grounds and check out all the people, not least the four temple members dressed up in big huggable suits that were almost knocked to the ground by swarms of kids running as fast as possible to get the biggest hug!
The Honganji is a very old temple, founded in the 13th century it was moved here after a fire in the early 17th century and detroyed once again in an earthquake in 1923. The temple was rebuilt by the legendary architect Ito Chuta (1867-1954) who was one of the leading architects in the movement to try and create a style that was uniquely Japanese while incorporating elements of all other forms of architecture, from Chinese and Indian all the way back to the ancient greek temples. It is easy to see the classical hellenistic influences on this huge buddhist temple!
The festival continues today and tomorrow, so if you are in Tokyo and want to see one of the best organized bonodori festivals in the city, just take the subway to Tsukiji station at 1900! After the festival I recommend a refreshing evening walk through the Ginza and Yurakucho areas!