A few weeks back I was out at the Fukagawa Hachiman Festival in Koto-ku, east Tokyo. I wrote a bit about the insane water battle here, but before tens of thousands took to the streets I was able to watch a traditional taiko performance in somewhat calmer surroundings. I always enjoy watching Japanese drumming: it has a hypnotic effect – not only through the sound and rhythm, but also visually, the way the drums are struck. Standing there watching the taiko […]
A millennium-old Japanese dance on the grounds of Sensoji Temple, Tokyo.
Categories: Traditional Festivals • Tags: asakusa, asia, blog, culture, dance, dancing, design, fashion, festival, japan, japanese, matsuri, photography, se asia, sensoji, shirasagi-no mai, tokyo, traditional, travel, white heron dance
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 […]
Dancing in the streets of my neighbourhood in Tokyo This weekend was the annual Awa Odori festival in my neighbourhood of Shimokitazawa in Tokyo. Awa Odori is part of the Bon festivities, which are held to welcome one’s ancestors back to this world for a few days. Participants march in a straight line in unison to music performed on the shamisen, flute, drums, and bells singing “odoru aho ni miru aho; onaji aho nara odoranya son son!” (It’s a fool who dances […]
Tōrō nagashi is a long-held Japanese tradition where candle-lit lanterns are released into rivers to guide the spirits of the departed back to the other world.
Categories: Traditional Festivals • Tags: ambient, asia, blog, buddhism, buddhist, culture, darren mcclure, design, eilean rec., festival, ikimasho, japan, japanese, peace, peaceful, photography, Porya Hatami, se asia, tradition, travel, Uwe Zahn, video, Zahn | Hatami | McClure, Zen
Ofudamaki was established in 1688 when mothers gave their clothes to male Shinto dancers in the hope of bringing them protection from cholera. My latest piece for DAZED is now online, talking about Ofudamaki, an obscure festival held once a year in a nondescript area 50 km from Tokyo. Check it out here.
Categories: Traditional Festivals • Tags: asia, blog, cross dressing, culture, design, female, festival, gender roles, japan, japanese, male, matsuri, ofudamaki, photography, religion, shinto, tokyo, travel, urban
YUSHIMA / 湯島 Last Sunday I made my way out to Yushima in east Tokyo – a station one stop from Nezu on the Chiyoda line, not far from Ueno Park. Yushima Tenjin (or Yushima Tenmangu) is Tokyo’s most famous shrine of scholars, and is therefore visited by students all over the city who come to pray for good exam results. Inside the grounds you can see hundreds of ema – small wooden plaques – written by students hoping for entry to the university of their […]
Once a year the yakuza openly do a show of strength in Tokyo, disrobing to show their full-body tattoos. Last weekend I got very lucky and managed to see a Yakuza show of strength here in Tokyo. This is extremely rare – and definitely up there with my most memorable travel experiences. Takahashi-gumi is one of the big Yakuza groups in Tokyo. They stripped off in front of the police station to reveal their tattoos then began carrying a portable shrine through […]
The start of Golden Week for us – and a new life for many. Today was the first day of Golden Week, a cluster of National Holidays in Japan where many workers get around a week off work. You really couldn’t have asked for better weather – the sun was splitting the trees – and so I headed down to Meiji Shrine for the start of the Spring Festival. Meiji Shrine (Meiji Jingū) is a shrine dedicated to the deified spirits of […]
Nya-nya-ing our way through the cat-strewn streets of Tokyo Working in a Japanese kindergarten not only affords me the luxury of coming into close contact with every single germ known to man, it also provides me with an abundance of information that is essentially useless to anyone over the age of six. For example, did you know that in Japan dogs don’t go woof-woof, they go wan-wan; frogs don’t ribbit, they go kero-kero; cats don’t meow, they go nya-nya. Now I say this information is useless but actually it came in quite handy […]
Dogs wearing clothes & revellers carrying portable shrines… One of the three great Shinto festivals of Tokyo returns after a four-year absence. Traditionally held on odd-numbered years, the 2011 Kanda Matsuri was cancelled due to the Tohoku quake and tsunami – meaning this year’s event was the first since 2009. Quintessentially Japanese, Matsuris like this are what makes living in this country so special.