The Kanda matsuri was held in Tokyo on Sunday for the first time in four years. The main festival is held every odd numbered year but was not held in 2011 due to the earthquake that year so this year it made a welcome return. It is one of three the largest festivals in Japan and on the Sunday locals carry mikoshi, portable shrines, through the streets around the Kanda Myoujin Shrine.
Keeping a stern eye on things:
Getting things ready:
It’s all a bit much for some:
Some of the mikoshi are quite lavish:
Some are pulled on carts:
But most are hoisted onto shoulders:
For young and old:
All the mikoshi go through the main shrine:
And are paraded in front of the main hall:
To receive a blessing:
Enjoying the show:
The mikoshi are then taken out to their local areas:
We went to Yushima Tenjin shrine near Ueno in Tokyo on the weekend for their annual plum-blossom festival. It’s been so unusually cold in Japan this year that even though the festival is supposed to finish at the end of this week the blossoms are only about 40% open. The shrine was originally established in 458AD and is now dedicated to a 神 (kami – god/spirit) of learning so often school children come before entrance examinations.
As usual, there are lots of food stalls in front of the shrine:
The main hall:
Before the exams, children (or often the parents!) come to give an offering for success. People write their wishes on small wooden boards, called ema, which are later burnt:
There’s also a tradition that if you make 1000 paper cranes then your wishes will come true. Here you can see long colourful strings of cranes:
There was also a stage set up with performances of traditional music:
The taiko drumming requires a lot of concentration:
There was also traditional dance:
We weren’t the only ones enjoying the festivities:
The highlight was display of plum blossoms, even if it was still a bit early:
There is a small garden in the shrine which is quite pleasant (if of course crowded!) to stroll around with a cup of hot amazake:
Every year, Kawasaki city holds a Citizens’ Festival (市民祭り – shiminmatsuri) which is a lot of fun. Besides the usual festival food there’s all kinds of stalls with everything from homemade pottery to Romanian wine. And pretty awful high-school rock bands. This year we took part in a green tea tasting event which showed how much the temperature of the water can affect the taste (it really does). About 500,000 people turn out over the three days (it’s also at the tail end of the typhoon season so does get cancelled on occasion!).
There’s also a big parade which winds up the road in front of the festival:
Very close to Okayama is the small city of Kurashiki. The centre of town along a canal has been very nicely preserved with old buildings and storehouses dating back to the Edo period (1604-1868), a lot of which have been converted into cafes, galleries and museums including the oldest Western art gallery in Japan. It would be a very nice area to stroll around on a sunny day. Unfortunately, when we went it was raining. But it was still quite pleasant:
We were quite lucky, however, to see a small festival going on that day with a large mikoshi (portable shrine) being carried through the streets:
Unusually for these kinds of festivals, it was being carried by the women:
While some of the men who guided the procession wore scary carved wooden masks:
I would like to go back and see Kurashiki when it’s a bit more sunny. I’ve heard it’s particularly pretty in the spring when all the trees along the canal are blossoming. Maybe one day.