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 […]
Last weekend was the annual Reitaisai (Grand Festival) in my suburb of Shimokitazawa. The festival was centred around Kitazawa Hachiman Shrine which was built more than 500 years ago to put the area under divine protection. Around 20 mikoshi (portable shrines) were scattered throughout the neighbourhood and then carried by various teams to the shrine itself. Like IKIMASHO! on Facebook
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 […]
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: Daily Life in Tokyo • Tags: aqrticle, asia, blog, city, cold, culture, Daikoku Matsuri, festival, ice, ikimasho, japan, japanese, matsuri, tokyo, tokyo weekender, traditional, weird, writing
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 […]
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.
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 …