Last Sunday I spent a pleasant afternoon in the company of hundreds, if not thousands, of old men’s bare asses. This, however, wasn’t some twisted fetish club down the backstreets of Shibuya, but rather Sanja Matsuri: Asakusa’s biggest and most boisterous festival, celebrating its 700th anniversary.
The event was cancelled last year as Tokyo was still trying to come to terms with the economical and emotional impact of the Tohoku quake. But last weekend over 1.8 million people flocked to the area to drink, dance and carry three large mikoshi (portable shrines) through the backstreets of Tokyo’s oldest neighbourhood.
The whole event was a full-on attack on the senses: one minute I was standing amidst a group of tattooed Yakuza gang members, while the next I was sharing fried octopus with random passers by. 700 years in the making, it’s an afternoon I’ll certainly not forget in a hurry.