dancing in the streets
Talk had been flying around that there was to be a big bold fest at the Asakusa shrine. Figuring I have not been getting my recommended daily intake of traditional japanese culture lately, I decided to check it out. It became quite obvious about three quarters of the way into the train ride that this was as they were saying, 'the biggest of Tokyo's traditional Three Grand Festivals'. Hoping to meet friends there, we stepped out onto the street and instantly realised that was never gonna happen. I estimated about 1 million people to be crammed into the streets leading up to the Sensoji Shrine, according to reports there were about 2 million!
Within a few steps we were wedged into the crowd and forced to become part of the boisterous procession of mikoshi (portable shrines). There was a roar of chanting, drum beats and dancing and by the smell of things - plenty of sake drinking. The beautiful gold and black mikoshi were thrown around by the dozens of carriers wearing their traditional festival clothing. It seemed like a pretty rough ride, but apparantly the more the deities are shaken the greater the blessings for the neighbourhood. There were also some mini mikoshi for the kiddies.
Sunday was the spectacular finale of the three day festival. The final procession beginning at 6am in the morning and returning safely to the shrine at midnight...that's alot of drinking, dancing and chanting.
I had heard that this festival was one of the only times that the japanese mafia (yakuza) can openly display their full body tattoos. I was hoping to catch some glimpses of the detailed body art. Glimpses was all i got, only splashes of ink poked out from underneath the traditional clothing worn.
The side streets running off the shrines main alley were jam packed with food stalls and hungry festival goers. The lively crowd were just as entertaining as the procession.