The second day of the famous Mitama Matsuri at the Yasukuni Shrine in central Tokyo we were treated to the always colorful, and loud, Nebuta dancers. This festival which is traditional in northern Japan makes a few guest appearances here and there in Tokyo throughout the year, the giant paper sculpture floats are always a hit with the audience and the peculiar rhythm and chanting is fun to listen to. If you have a chance this year, go to see the other much bigger Nebuta celebrations in and around Tokyo later this summer!
The Mitama matsuri was quite peculiar this year, without the usual food stalls and huge crowds it was much quieter and smoother than usual. Not bad in my opinion! It will certainly be interesting to hear the official evaluations form the shrine itself. The next big people’s festival at Yasukuni Shrine will be the New Year’s Celebrations in December 31st to the first few days of January.
More photos from the grand Mitama Matsuri taking place at Tokyo’s centrally located Yasukuni Shrine, from Monday to Thursday this year. I was there on the first day of the festival to see the beautiful Omikoshi (portable shrine) being carried all the way up the shrine, pausing a few times on the way to let the people carrying it catch their breath. This is one of the most prestigious omikoshi in the capital, so there is quite a lot (good hearted, usually, but not always) jostling for the most honorable spots underneath it! A few people also took the opportunity to pose with the omikoshi before the last spurt under the great gatehouse. Since the festival is tied in with the traditional tanabata celebrations there are usually some very colorful decorations hanging from the front of the grand gatehouse.
If you are in Tokyo, don’t miss the last day of the festival tomorrow! It is better than ever this year!
Monday was the start of the famous Mitama Matsuri at one of Tokyo’s most influential shrines, the Yasukini Jinja. This year the festival is very different from previous years though, in one very obvious way – there are no food stalls (yatai)! A few months ago it was decided by the shrine to ban all eating, drinking and food stands outside and around the shrine (with the exception of a few vending machines for drinks and the cafes and restaurants run by the shrine itself. The reason for this harsh decision which made the news in both papers and TV, was that the drinking and party aspect of the festival had gone out of hand in the last few years. The shrine wanted to get back to a cleaner, more respectful and traditional festival. As you can see, the atmosphere of the festival changed quite a bit! If I have to give my opinion on the shrines decision, I would have to agree 100% with them. I am absolutely not against the yatai, and they are an important part of any Japanese summer festival, but there are hundreds of other festivals in Tokyo alone, where anyone can to enjoy the food part of the classic matsuri. It was actually quite nice to experience this new style of festival. Another bonus was that there were much more space available to visitors, and so movement became much easier and quicker, not much more crowded than being in Shibuya on a Saturday afternoon.
Being a huge fan of Omikoshi I made sure not to miss the first of them! The festival goes on until the 16th, with different performances, shows and music throughout the day and the evening. If you are in Tokyo, this really is a must, the start of the hot and humid summer classic Tokyo festivals!
This year’s New Years was spent at Yasukuni Shrine in central Tokyo. We were ushering in the year of the Sheep according to the zodiac, in addition to the wester year 2015 or the 27th Year of the reign of Emperor Heisei or the year 2675 according to the old Japanese Imperial reckoning. As usual there was plenty of people, lost of food stands and as always the different scout groups stood at attention around the fires. Hatsumode is the traditional first visit to a shrine in the new year and most people perform it within a few days of January first, if not at midnight itself!