Tanuki’s journey requires lots of caffeine and energy drinks. Do you think AKB48 is a fan of tanuki? Would any of these young ladies make friends with a semi-wild shapeshifter? Tanuki raises more questions than answers.
The big cherry blossom sites, including Inokashira park, Yoyogi park and Yasukuni shrine, are wonderful places for get-togethers with outdoor drinking and eating. But I also love seeing the cherry trees in full bloom while walking around the city. This old cherry tree is blooming on a small street, with the Nakano high rise telecom tower in the background.
I also love how every public school has at least one cherry tree at the entrance; the elementary school nearby has a dusty soccer field surrounded on three side by gorgeous cherries.
あけましておめでとうございます！ 2010 began on a cold night in Tokyo one hour ago. We visited our local shrine: no line, hot rice drink, and a tiny bonfire. The small shrine’s doors were open, revealing that our local gods live amidst folding chairs and assorted bric-a-brac.
The visit to the shrine followed many hours of Kouhaku, the annual music extravaganza on NHK, plus a Johnny’s shmorgasbord of dozens of boy bands, dizzying video displays, and stages gliding over crazed fangirls. A very traditional new year in Japan.
Below is the “blue” moon, the second full moon of the month. Best wishes for the new decade!
This month there are many neighborhood omatsuri, festivals organized by local shrines to celebrate the harvest. Like the summer omatsuri I wrote about earlier, the festivals include carrying portable shrines through the streets, taiko drums, music, costumes include happi and fundoshi, public eating and drinking, and much neighborhood socializing.
Above is a large night festival in Suginami, popular with young people. The long path to the shrine is lined with hundreds of food stalls, selling regional foods and even imported ones like shawarma (which Japanese call kebab). Chocolate-covered bananas, light-up horns, and beer all seem popular.
Several features of omatsuri are particularly relevant to Tokyo Green Space: the celebration in the city of a harvest festival, the use of streets for community gathering, the multi-generational bonds of community that are formed and maintained.
Last weekend, my local shrine celebrated with a kid’s omatsuri one day, and an adult one the next day. Each day the parade made a stop in front of my apartment building, turning the parking lot into a public festival. The supermarket offered free drinks and food, and I met several young fathers and kids who live in my building. The woman next door who tends an overflowing flower garden in the alley was at the shrine, watering the ground. She welcomed me and gave me a tour of the shrine area, which had portable structures and the doors open in the small permanent building. You can see it is surrounded by blue sheets for an impromptu seating area.
I was also struck by the mesmerizing music. A band played in front of the shrine: three drummers, a flute player, and a simple metal instrument that resembles a tin bowl. The Youtube video gives you an idea of how it sounds.
After the jump, you can see a few extra pictures showing how the procession takes over the main street.