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 report from Ikazuchi no Daihannya, a weird and wonderful ‘matsuri’ that takes place annually to ward off ancient ghosts
Last Sunday – with the cold visible on my breath – I made a short trip on the dainty Setagaya train line visit to the Setagaya Boroichi Fair. Started over 400 years ago, this huge flea market is now designated as one of Tokyo’s intangible folk cultural assets and features about 700 venders selling all sorts of food, junk, toys and antiques. There was a marching band with students playing the tuba, and everyone was in good spirits. I also tried […]
“A six-centuries-old tradition, showing allegiance to the mountain gods, feels like a religious test of endurance, writes Justin Egli recounting what he witnessed atop the volcano.” In 2014 I climbed to the top of an active volcano in Indonesia at midnight to witness a very unique festival. It was an extremely intense experience, with pilgrims throwing live sacrifices into the heart of the caldera. I’m really happy to have my account of the experience published by New Mandala – an […]
A millennium-old Japanese dance on the grounds of Sensoji Temple, Tokyo.
Categories: Art Music & Culture, Tokyo Days • Tags: asakusa, asia, blog, culture, dance, dancing, design, fashion, festival, japan, japanese, justin egli, 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: Art Music & Culture, Tokyo Days • Tags: ambient, asia, blog, buddhism, buddhist, culture, darren mcclure, design, eilean rec., festival, ikimasho, japan, japanese, justin egli, 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: Bizarre/Unique, Tokyo Days, Uncategorized • Tags: asia, blog, cross dressing, culture, design, female, festival, gender roles, japan, japanese, justin egli, 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 […]
Categories: Art Music & Culture, Tokyo Days • Tags: asia, blog, design, festival, food, ikimasho, japan, japanese, matsuri, photo essay, photography, shinto, summer, Tenjin, tokyo, travel, ueno, video, Yushima
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 […]
In Japanese, hana (花) means flower and fubuki (吹雪) means snow storm. So, hanafubuki literally means ‘flower snow storm’ – or more commonly, ‘cherry blossom blizzard’. It happens once a year when the sakura petals begin to fall. Right now, hanafubuki has begun in Tokyo. I walked from my house in Shimokitazawa down to the river at Naka-meguro and the trees were snowing sakura all the way. ❤ Like IKIMASHO! on facebook
A bizarre Japanese festival that kinda sucks – in more ways than one. “Kawasaki, Japan: 10.30am. An American woman with gold pants and a massive ass is squatting on the ground in the convenience store, clutching a beer, looking as if she’s about to throw up. I look around and see more gaijin (foreigners) in the store than Japanese. Most look like military types who have come down from Yokosuka Naval base for the day. One guy, with a buzzcut and tshirt that […]
Categories: Art Music & Culture, Bizarre/Unique, Tokyo Days • Tags: asia, backpacking, bizarre, blog, culture, design, festival, ikimasho, japan, japanese, justin egli, photography, sex, tokyo, travel
Exploring a new area with an old tradition… ❤ For the last 3-4 years I have been living in Setagaya-ku – one of the 23 wards of Tokyo. After spending a good deal of time here, I’ve become somewhat of a Setagaya snob, in that I genuinely think it’s the best place to live – my station of Shimokitazawa being low-key enough yet offering access to both Shibuya and Shinjuku in under ten minutes. The area around Shinjuku station is massive, and […]
❤ THANK YOU! / ありがとう! ❤ IKIMASHO! has made it through to the final for Best Travel Blog in this year’s Blog Awards Ireland. Thank you to everyone who voted for me! I guess now it’s a case of whether the judges go for a straight down-the-line entry or my oddball stuff. To be honest, despite there being a number of great travel blogs out there, there are also far too many generic sites around today: the whole scene is swamped with people […]
Don’t mess with Tengu. The Long Red-Nosed Goblin Festival, Tokyo. Once a year, the Shimokita Tengu Matsuri – or Long Red-nosed Goblin Festival – takes place about a two-minute walk from my house in Tokyo. Along with possibly having the best name for a festival ever, it’s a chance to worship the legendary Tengu (天狗, “heavenly dog”) and take part in a special ritual called Mamemaki – bean-throwing to toss away bad luck from the previous year. In 2014 at my kindergarten I was the […]
“It’s a cold January morning in east Tokyo and as soon as I leave Shin-Ochanomizu station I’m cursing myself that I didn’t bring my gloves. Even the dog on the pavement beside me is wearing a coat, though I’m not entirely sure the color suits him. On this particular morning I’m on my way to the nearby Myojin shrine to watch a load of naked men throw buckets of ice water over themselves—It’s moments like this when I wonder what […]
Categories: Tokyo Days • Tags: aqrticle, asia, blog, city, cold, culture, Daikoku Matsuri, festival, ice, ikimasho, japan, japanese, justin egli, matsuri, tokyo, tokyo weekender, traditional, weird, writing
It’s a small world. Marching Performance at a Japanese kindergarten. Earlier in the year I posted about my class of five-year-olds performing the Jurassic Park theme tune for the ongakukai (Music Festival). Those particular kids have long since moved on to Elementary School, having been replaced with this year’s batch of nen-cho students. Not to be outdone by their predecessors, these new kids did a marching performance for our annual undōkai (Sports Day) that once again showed how amazingly talented these little guys and girls are.
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 […]
If you’re a fool, you may as well dance… Once a year, 12,000 dancers pile out on to the streets of Koenji for the annual Awa Odori, Tokyo’s most energetic festival. Men dance in tabi (split-toed socks), while women wear sandals, their heels not touching the ground. They march through the streets 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 and a […]
Purification of the sea. Getting wet at the annual Hamaorisai Sea Festival in Chigasaki. Once a year in July thousands of people gather at sunrise at the fishing port of Chigasaki to join the Hamaorisai Matsuri – one of Japan’s most vivid spectacles. Dating back to back the ninth year of Tempo (1839), this annual festival is believed to have started when the sacred palanquin of Samukawa Shrine was carried away and lost in the Banyu River on the way back from the Kokuhu Festival. The palanquin later reappeared […]
“The children were crying with fear. It was a success.” These were the first words my coworker said to me as we took off our crudely made demon masks in a storeroom hidden in the back of the school. Half an hour before we had silently descended upon the kindergarten: bursting into classrooms and purposely trying to frighten the kids. This is Setsubun, a festival held the day before the beginning of Spring in Japan. It’s accompanied by a special ritual […]
PROCLAMATION WE THE PEOPLE OF INDONESIA HEREBY DECLARE THE INDEPENDENCE OF INDONESIA. MATTERS WHICH CONCERN THE TRANSFER OF POWER AND OTHER THINGS WILL BE EXECUTED BY CAREFUL MEANS AND IN THE SHORTEST POSSIBLE TIME. DJAKARTA, 17 AUGUST 1945 IN THE NAME OF THE PEOPLE OF INDONESIA SOEKARNO—HATTA
Considering becoming a corpse in Japan? Here’s a convenient place to park your body. Dying is pretty low down on most people’s list of priorities. Let’s face it, it’s not much fun and everyone is running around crying and stuff. It’s not a happy occasion. Saying that, it happens to us all – and undertakers will never be out of business. There are graveyards scattered all over Tokyo. I pass one particular one on my way to work some days […]
Categories: Art Music & Culture, Bizarre/Unique, Tokyo Days • Tags: asia, bizarre, burial, corpse, culture, dead, death, festival, funeral, guidebook, inaka, japan, religion, shinto, shrine, south east asia, tokyo, travel, urban, weird
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.
24 Hour Party People: Acid House in the Shonan sun Sun. Music. Dancing. Random pints with Peter Hook. Sneaking backstage. Pool parties. More sun. More music. Hotel antics. 808 State live. Acid House. Girls. Bikinis. That pretty much sums up my experience at the Hacienda Oiso Festival – a two-day affair on Oiso Long Beach about 90 mins from central Tokyo. Named after the legendary Manchester club, the Hacienda fest is all about vibes, plain and simple. I was lucky enough to […]
Categories: Art Music & Culture • Tags: 808 state, acid, acid house, asia, culture, fashion, festival, hacienda, japan, madchester, manchester, new order, party, peter hook, south east asia, sun, tokyo, travel
Evil spirits, a man with a cat on his shoulder and people throwing beans at each other. It can only be Setsubun ??? Japan’s own unique way of saying hello to spring. When I was nine years old I threw a plate of baked beans over some kid in my class …