Celebrating the newly born spirits of the darkness with the biggest taiko drums in Japan.
Okunitama Shrine is one of the oldest shrines in Tokyo, located in the centre of Fuchu City, a 20-minute train ride from where I live. By chance, my mate lives in Fuchu and so last week I went out to see him and to check out the shrine’s annual festival – the amazing Kurayami Matsuri (Darkness Festival).
For some odd reason I thought Fuchu was a tiny nondescript station on the Keio line, but it’s actually a city in itself – with a population of about 250,000. During the festival, this figure almost doubles as people come from all over the 23 wards to check out the processions.
During my trip we got to see the dashi-gyoretsu, a float parade featuring music and scenes from traditional Japanese folklore. We also got very lucky and saw the taiko okurikomi (circumambulation of big drums) – where the biggest taiko drums in Japan are wheeled under the gate of Okunitama Shrine and along a path lined with zelkova trees which are designated as National Natural Treasures. It was a festival that exceeded all my expectations, and one I that will return to in the future.