It’s the time for autumn matsuri festivals! I still remember being a small girl: my parents dressed me up with a happi (festival coat) and a towel around my head to let me join the local festival. I remember my hands hurting from pulling the coarse rope attached to the portable shrine and heavy sounds of festival drums echoing in my heart…
Written by Ryoko
Translated by Mie Hashizume
On my way home the other day my eyes were attracted by very smart, colorful Japanese lanterns decorating the streets and a poster reading “Setagaya Higashi-machi Town Council Festival” in front of the Daikichi-ji Temple. I was so intrigued by it, that I visited the temple on the very next day.
Notes written with a writing brush
The entrance of Daikichi-ji Temple
Now where do these Japanese festivals actually come from? According to Wikipdia, before the arrival of Confucianism and Buddhism, the only regional object for Japanese were kami – the gods of the Shinto religion. At that time, people found the existence of “kami” in every natural phenomenon such as climates and geography, not in persons as such. For example, when a storm or an earthquake occured, people regarded it as “the wrath of a kami” and naturally began to pray it to appease it.
During these festivals, people use an omikoshi – a portable shine – to praise the gods and appease the spirit of kami while transferring it from a shine to different locations around the neighbourhood and back.
these beautifully shining gold omikoshi are often shaped like miniature shrine buildings
People present sake bottles and sweets at the alter
The decoration pattern of drums seems to have an interesting history…
Setagaya Higashi-machi Town Council Festival which enshrines the rain god of the Setagaya-hachimangu Shrine, is one of the main events for the community. Starting at Daikichi-ji Temple, people march through the town carrying a portable shrine. It sounds simple, but you really have to all work together in order to move the omikoshi properly. That means, the event also has the goal to strengthen the relationships within the community, not just worshipping the gods.
Children’s festival fashion style
This boy has a bowl ofshaved ice!
headband and happi being way too big for this cute little kid!
A Gentle mother and a sleepy child. The red headband and black happi look just perfect on him.
A pretty girl with an astonished look
When I arrived at Daikichi-ji Temple, it was already crowded, not only with the locals carrying the portable shrine but also with a large audience including people like me. This matsuri is certainly a long-waited annual event.
They are in their own haroi kimono in Japanese traditional colors
Light-blue and deep-blue happi coats
Beautiful pure-white Japanese socks
Navy-blue socks go well with straw sandals. Aren’t they nice?
Elegant melodies of traditional festival music, old heavy drum sounds (Don-Don-Don) and people calling “Wasshioi! Wasshioi” create a perfect matsuri atmosphere.
Small portable shrine for children
People behind the scenes of the festival
The man on the following left-hand picture is 72 year-old and has never been away from this part of Tokyo. He truly loves this town and is therefore very concerned about a big shopping mall of giant supermarket chain that is supposed to be built in this neighbourhood very soon. This together with and expanding mail order industry makes it more than hard for the small local shops to survive – many of which were forced to shut down already.
“If nothing happens and the plans to build this shopping center here continue, then this neighbourhood will die – and so will the festival.” he said. Wouldn’t it be great, if there were some Japanese cultural fonds to support more culture such as these kind of festivals?
The 72 year old man with his bright smile takes the role of a bodyguard. Nice combination: traditional happi and his light sword.
Local people take care of the trash.
Thinking about the difficult situation small shop owners are in, I remembered a TV program called “Gaia-no-yoake” featuring an episode called “Shopping Mall Delivery” the other day. It introduced a system to deliver shopping commodities to clients by phone order, mainly targetting hospital and senior care homes. This is a very good idea to meet the needs of the old I think, but at the same time it also shows the very difficult situation nearly all small stores making up the cute little shopping-streets in Japan are in.
The weather was getting worse and it was raining in the latter half of the festival. According to the town people, it often rains when they have their festival. So it seems to work then, if their ritual is to worship “the god of rain”. The heavier it poured, the louder the call of the people carrying the shrine. That was a great finish.
A festival lantern at some shop’s entrance.
Cluster-amaryllis. It’s autumn…
Today interpersonal communication is becoming less and less. I truly hope that such special, traditional festivals can last to keep the tradition and warm the hearts of people rushing around a cold Tokyo. Watch out for the next festival near your home and make some local friends!
I’d like to say thanks to people of Higashi-machi Town Council for all their cooperation!