The local Shin Nakano matsuri was held on a scorching hot day with few spectators. That didn’t stop the portable shrine lifters, or the giant hand-painted banner guy.
On a wide boulevard normally devoted to multi-lane auto traffic, nothing could be more beautiful than the site of elegant ladies in matching kimonos and hats dancing in synchronized movements. The summer and fall Shinto festivals transform business Tokyo into a series of village parties evoking an agrarian culture rarely sensed inside the megalopolis.
Below are photos from the Shiba matsuri. The sub-group near my friend Bas’ home displayed photos from the 1945 festival, just a month after the end of the war in which the entire neighborhood and much of Tokyo was burnt to the ground. The last photo shows a man who is both telling stories and selling bananas, a continuation of an Edo-era festival character.
In the photos you can see how on a special holiday, the streets, overpasses, convenience stores, and other mundane urban spaces are transformed into a very social and well dressed public environment.
I am a huge fan of Tokyo’s summer festivals. Sacred and community-based, these festivals involve shrine carrying, chanting, grunting, drums, flutes, and bells, ritual clothing, and close proximity between neighbors.