When the spirits of mountains and forests roam the streets of Tokyo
The summer matsuri season may have died down but there are still plenty of smaller cultural festivals happening all over Tokyo each weekend for those curious enough look that little bit further. For me, visiting these festivals is an integral part of living here: for as well as helping me understand more about Japan, they also satisfy my need to ‘travel’ in that I am constantly seeing something new and fresh for the first time. In fact, many of these smaller festivals have never really been documented before by any English websites or publications. I am quite often the only westerner present at some of these events.
At this year’s Hikawa Matsuri in Tokyo’s Akasaka district I got to see three different dashi – traditional wheeled floats – being pulled through the streets. Accompanying them were elders of shrine wearing flat circular hats, as well as an impressive Tengu draped in orange. Tengu are a type of legendary creature found in Japanese folklore. Buddhism long held that the tengu were disruptive demons and harbingers of war. Their image gradually softened, however, into one of protective, if still dangerous, spirits of the mountains and forests.
[click on an image below for slideshow]