Last Friday the 13th of the month of July, I hurriedly sneaked out from the office around 6:30pm (yup, going home around that time on a Friday is consider early), switched off my phone and head straight to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine to attend the first day celebration of Mitama Matsuri.
Though the event ran for 3 days straight, I had plans to go somewhere else on the weekend and I wanted to see as much as summer festival that I could. So yes, I did sneaked out from work and able to reached the shrine sweating and hungry.
I have frame the festival on my mind that it will be a nice, laid back and solemn evening stroll along the towering torri gates of Yasukuni Shrine and along the 30,000 lanterns illuminated to celebrate the soul of the departed loved ones. Once again, I was wrong.
Stepping out of Kudanshita Subway station, I was greeted by Yukuta (summer kimono) clad teenagers waiting for the rest of their friends, to party, I mean to enjoy the festival. The main road towards the shrine was populated by university or high school kids, I am not sure if the Tokyo University across the street is the one to blame but I was disappointed by the initial ambiance that it was more like attending a fraternity party.
With kids flirting with each other on one side (I feel so old saying this), to the hunted mansion on the opposite side and the line of food stalls on both ends, the whole block can be mistaken for a rock concert to any passerby who do not know what the commotion was all about.
Once I reach the main stage at the middle, I tried to break away from the crowd, went to the road outside and finally managed to reach the main shrine area.
Here is the part where I started to appreciate how beautiful Mitama Matsuri is. To be surrounded by the mesmerizing lanterns and the evening summer breeze, I should sneaked out early from work more often.
Summer might be the most dreadful season in Japan but can be most rewarding for those who want to appreciate traditional Japanese festival and for those who are not afraid to go outside and brave the uncomfortable heat. Last July 31 was Shinjuku’s turn for the famous Eisa Festival.
I arrived too late and saw only few performances but it was so good. Armed with a handheld fan and camera on the other hand, like many others, I slumped on the sidewalk and just listen in awe as the passionate Taiko drummers with accompanying Okinawa music and dancers dominate the usually hectic streets of Kabukicho.
On a completely, unrelated Matsuri post, here is a photo of a really weird advertisement zooming around Shinjuku. I think it is for new type of café service where girls are dress up or will act like a robot?
By the way, many many thanks to my friend Rurousha (visit her blog for very informative and funny takes on everything Japan), I was made aware of Mitama Matsuri.