Last weekend Tsukishima held a lively omasturi (festival) in the summer heat and humidity. The dog above is wearing a traditional happi, a short cotton jacket with a design showing group affiliation. Old and new Japan seemed to come together as this dog’s owner participated in this ancient ritual with his “chosen” family of two well-dressed dogs.
Connecting street festivals to the theme of Tokyo Green Space is the alternative use of streets, not for automobile traffic but for commemoration, community, leisure, and drinking. There is a relaxed atmosphere to Japanese festivals that bring a small-town feeling to the enormous metropolis.
The shrine (omikoshi) paraded through the street is incredibly heavy. This one is being lifted by at least 40 people, with spectators throwing buckets of water and spraying hoses.
A group of mostly elderly carpenters led the procession singing a haunting song. If you click on the YouTube video below you can hear the chorus followed by a soloist and then the chorus again.
And finally, a very short video clip of carrying the shrine and chanting.
This week I attended the Morning Glory festival in Iriya. Fifty vendors spread outside and inside the Iriya Kishimojin temple set up hundreds of thousands of plants for sale on July 6, 7 and 8. It is a symbol of the start of summer.
Many vendors wear traditional clothes, including hapi and momoshiki, plus towels worn as headbands to beat the summer heat. All the Japanese delivery services had representatives, who can deliver your morning glory throughout Japan for 800 yen (about $8.50).
Inside the temple I saw monks blessing plastic morning glory flowers with chanting and metal sparks. There was plumes of incense, small kids in colorful outfits, and television cameras.
I spoke with some European and Latin Americans working in the stall of their bonsai master Kobayashi Kunio. They confirmed that all the vendors were selling very similar plants. Most were four plants of different colored morning glory (pink, blue, purple, red, white, and striated flowers, and many with striated leaves) twined around a circular support. They also told me that the stalls were open from 6 am until 2 am, which makes for incredibly long days and little sleep. I picked up “ocean blue” for 2,500 yen and a four color mix for 2,000 yen.
Covered flower stalls occupied one side of the wide road, including one lane of traffic, and typical festival food the opposite side.