Category Archives: matsuri

Hirosaki Neputa Matsuri

Hirosaki Neputa Matsuri 06

This is one of the big three festivals in the northern Tohoku region, the other two being the Aomori Nebuta Matsuri and the Akita Kanto Matsuri. They are all held around the same time (early August) too, so you can enjoy all three by taking a three-day holiday. Large and small floats (neputa) are carried and pulled through the streets of Hirosaki.

The neputa are mostly fan-shaped with themes ranging from mythology, beautiful women and history. You can see the floats in daylight, but it’s the evening when they look the best as they are illuminated from within.

Hirosaki Neputa Matsuri 05

Just like at any other large festival, Japanese people reserve their spot hours in advance. If you don’t mind standing, you’ll have no problem finding a good spot to take some nice photos. The floats pass Hirosaki Station and the noise of the festival can be heard from the distance. Read the rest of this entry

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Tsukuda Bon Odori – Folk Dance

Tsukuda Bon Odori  07
This is one of those smaller folk dancing festivals, even though it is recommended by the Japan National Tourism Organization. Tsukuda Bon Odori was held from July 13 to July 15 in Tsukuda, Chuo-ku near the Tsukudakobashi Bridge. The square is about a ten minute walk from Tsukishima Station (Oedo or Yurakucho Line) but finding it was not easy. I’ve never been to that festival or the area before so I expected a somewhat bigger, more public square.

Instead, this festival has more of a neighborhood feel to it. Music was played from 8 to 9:30 each day. The music is highly repetitive, but that works in favor for those who haven’t practiced before. Many obon festivals I’ve been to encourage people to join. While there were many dressed for the occasion in Yukata and sandals, others were wearing casual Western clothes.

The stage was simple. Larger festivals usually have a bigger tower for the musicians as well as some dancers who know all the proper moves. Read the rest of this entry

Oktoberfest in Japan

German Fest  Tokyo  04
The Munich Oktoberfest is the biggest beer festival in the world and over 200 years old. I’ve never been there but many foreigners travel to Germany each year just to get drunk. Like christmas markets, the Oktoberfest has been exported to many countries. Of course, Japan is among them!

The Japanese Oktoberfest is only ten years old and is held in seven locations this year:
Odaiba: 4/27-5/6
Hibiya Park: 5/18-5/27
Sendai: 6/15-6/24
Shiba: 8/17-8/26
Toyosu: 8/31-9/9
Kobe: 9/14-9/23
Nagasaki: 9/14-9/23

A bit Tokyo-centric, isn’t it? However, these are just the Oktoberfests announced on october-fest.jp (Japanese only). There’s another one in Yokohama which is usually held annually in October, but will be held in spring this year as well (4/27-5/7).


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Sapporo White Illumination Festival

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This holiday I try to visit as many illumination festivals as possible and the Sapporo White Illumination Festival was first on my list. Illumination festivals are usually held from the end of November until christmas although some are longer. Small parts of the one in Sapporo are held until the start of the snow festival when snow and ice sculptures will be built at Odori Park.

The illumination festival has different sections. The first one is on the same square as the TV tower and is the “Love Tree”.

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Love Tree with Space Tree in the background

The second one is the more futuristic “Space Tree”, a kind of modern interpretation of the christmas tree. During the Munich Christmas Market (until December 24) the tree will be in the center of the market.

The main part of the festival is located on the next two squares. Read the rest of this entry

Bunkyo Ajisai Matsuri – Hydrangea Festival (Hakusan Shrine)

Bunkyo Ajisai Matsuri  Tokyo  02
This is a festival I haven’t been to before, the Bunkyo Ajisai Matsuri. Its held at Hakusan Shrine and the park next to it. Colorful Hydrangeas are in bloom in June, “early June” as the Japan Times describes it, but going in mid-June I wasn’t disappointed either.

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The hydrangeas frame the shrine, offering excellent photo opportunities. I went on Friday because I had plans for the weekend. On the weekend events are scheduled, though judging by photos, these don’t seem to be very exciting. As with the iris festivals the rainy seasons add something nice to close-up shots.
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How to get there: Hakusan Station on the Toei Mita line or Hon-Komagome Station on the Namboku line. It’s just a short walk from the station. There is no admission fee.

Kasukabe Community Matsuri – Taiko, Dance & Fireworks

Kasukabe Matsuri  03
Not having enough of fireworks this year, I searched for other festivals in the Kanto region. The Japan Tourist Organization, whose festival list is used by the Japan Times, is of course selective but there are other Japanese sites online which list almost all the fireworks, cherry blossom and other seasonal festivals for any given region.

That’s how I’ve found the matsuri (festival) in Kasukabe (春日部) which was listed as one of the last fireworks festivals in 2010. I checked the train connections and found out that I could combine the festival with a visit to Soka and the city of Kasukabe. Both cities are in Saitama prefecture and the websites offer a guide to the sights.

There is apparently a Summer festival in Kasukabe where they carry portable shrines (Mikoshi) through the streets. The festival I’ve been to was the Kasukabe Community Summer Festival (春日部コミュニティ夏まつり) followed by the fireworks. The community festival is not held near Kasukabe station, the closest station is Minami-Sakurai Station on the Tobu Noda Line.

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The festival site is the Showa Sogo Park (庄和総合公園). Since it is not a famous festival, there were hardly any signs of the festival at all when I left the station. What a difference compared to the festivals in Tokyo where I was almost guided by security from the train station to the festival site!

After walking for about 15 minutes, I reached the park. While the festival is well-visited, it’s not overcrowded. Food stalls were offering the usual food and snacks (yakisoba, okonomiyaki, kakigori) and I didn’t see any people rushing to save the best places for the fireworks part.

Kasukabe Matsuri  43 Read the rest of this entry

Kameido Tenjin Taisai (Summer festival)

Kameido Tenjin Taisai
This is the Summer festival of the Kameido Tenjin shrine and is held annually. I wasn’t interested in the Mikoshi parade, because I’ve already seen plenty of those. What I was interested in were the lanterns which are lit up around the shrine in the evening.

There are 1100 lanterns, although not all were lit up for some reason. A Shinto dance is performed on stage.

Kameido Tenjin Taisai

As this festival was different from the other festivals this month, I enjoyed this matsuri very much.

The shrine is near Kameido Station on the JR Sobu Line. From the station it’s a 15 minute walk.

Kameido Tenjin Taisai

Hachioji Matsuri

Hachioji Ice sculpture

Ice sculptures in Summer and outside? In Japan, this doesn’t seem too unusual. I’ve seen an ice sculpture exhibition near Meiji Shrine once, and on the 6th and 7th I went to the Hachioji Matsuri. The ice sculpture exhibition was just one part of the festival.

Needless to say that these sculptures are short-lived. They aren’t cooled in any way so last only a few hours. If you come to late, some of the sculptures will likely have lost legs or other parts.

The other day I went see the big street parade. No surprises there, but I certainly didn’t regret coming to Hachioji as part of my Matsuri Month.
Hachioji Matsuri

Mitama Matsuri, Soul Festival of Ikegami Honmonji Temple

Mitama Matsuri
Start of my matsuri month, in which I will try to visit as many matsuris (festivals) as possible from the Japan Times event list, which they receive from the Japan National Tourism Organization. August offers the greatest variety of festivals in and around Tokyo. Today I decided to visit the Mitama Matsuri which features Bon Odori, a traditional folk dance.

Honmonji Temple

At the Bon Odoris you will see ordinary people join the dance too and I don’t think they would mind tourists joining in – although tourists are usually packed with cameras and a back pack which makes dancing harder. Today was the last day of the two-day festival in Ota-ku.

The temple is a ten minute walk from either Nishi-Magome (Toei Asakusa line) or Ikegami station (Tokyu Ikegami line). I arrived late to the festival, the folk dance starts at 7pm and ends at 9pm. Maybe that’s why relatively few people were dancing.

Gujo Odori Festival in Aoyama

 

Gujo Odori in Aoyama

„Odori“ means „dance“ in Japanese and Gujo Odori is a traditional folk dance festival in Aoyama, Tokyo. Gujo Odoris are held in many parts of Japan. The music is played in the centre with the people dancing around it. While many were wearing Yukatas, a lot of people were wearing modern clothes. In fact, there are some places where you can learn the dance and take part in the festival!