Tea cup balconies and giant chef’s head decorate entrance to Kappabashi, Tokyo’s Kitchen Town



Between Asakusa and Ueno is Kappabashi, or Kitchen Town, a great place to buy everything from pots and pans to kitchenware and even the plastic foods restaurants use to advertise their menus outside. I’d seen the giant chef’s head online, but was completely surprised by the red, white and blue teacup balconies across the street and next to the police box.


Festival outfit mixes easily with mama-chari bike and cellphone



I missed all the shrine carrying, but what I really enjoy is the mix of the old and new, all taking place on streets full of people and closed to traffic. I like how this guy is casually wearing his happi jacket and no pants while talking on the phone and balancing on the prototypical Tokyo bike with kids seat and basket.

Some “downtown” characters form part of the organizing committee


These gentlemen look like they’ve participated in the Asakusa sanja matsuri many times before. They seem very much at home in Tokyo’s shitamachi, known for its traditional, Edo-influenced culture.

Wood and string toy provides old-fashioned challenge



It’s nice to see the young people at the matsuri giving their smartphones a rest and enjoying some old-fashioned games, like kendama which involves catching a ball tied to two wood cups with a string.

Food and drink spill out into the street



Nearby commercial establishments put tables and chairs into the street. Beer and mixed drinks in cans seem to fuel the spiritual rites.


A clan assembles in front of Sky Tree in an Asakusa side street


Alongside the worship of local dieties, who are physically carried through the streets, Tokyo matsuris bring clans together and express group identity with matching jackets. Sky Tree in the background provides a contemporary marker to what feels like a timeless ritual .

Working class fashions include ink and hair dye



While much of “proper” Japan forbids the sight of tattoos, at festivals there is a proliferation of working class fashion, including large visible tattoos. I was equally struck by the long pink mane that makes the other fellow look like a punk version of My Little Pony. On-street drinking and smoking are also possible.