I finally revisited Sendai during Aug. 6-8 to see the famous Tanabata Festival, the grand daddy of all Tanabata Matsuris in Japan. I was not disappointed. Sendai’s Tanabata is definitely a few notches above any other Tanabata in Japan. Most of the streamers are made of paper instead of plastic. And all those origami paper cranes. I shudder to think how many man-hours were spent to make them. Click on the image to see more photos.
From Sendai, I took a day trip to neighboring Yamagata to see the Yamagata Hanagasa Matsuri, an evening parade of dancers wearing a flower hat.
On the way back to Tokyo, I stopped by Fukushima to see the Fukushima Waraji Matsuri Festival which is another evening dance parade with a twist. Sometimes you see dancers wear waraji straw sandals.
Near Kita-Kamakura Station is Meigetsu-in temple famous for ajisai or hydrangea. What a sight to see all these ajisai in full bloom at the same time in mid-June. A definite must-see if you’re in Kamakura in June.
Went to see a slew of matsuri during April-May 2009. Here are a few of them in videos and stills.
Inabe Shrine in Toin, Mie Prefecture, Japan holds the Oyashiro Matsuri festival on the first weekend of April. The main event is the Ageuma (Leaping Horse) ceremony when six young lads ride a horse at full speed and try to leap up and over a steep earthen wall.
The Saio princess was an unmarried, young Imperial princess, often the Emperor’s daughter, who was appointed (by divination) to be the High Priestess of Ise Grand Shrines in Mie Prefecture from the 7th to 14th centuries. For about 660 years, over 60 Saio princesses served at Ise Grand Shrines. The new Saio princess traveled from Kyoto to her Saiku palace near the Ise Shrine. The journey took 5 nights and 6 days, and passed through Tsuchiyama in Koka, Shiga Prefecture. Held on the last Sunday in March, this festival reenacts the Saio Gunko procession in Tsuchiyama to Tarumi Tongu which was one of the five temporary palaces where the Saio lodged along the way. You could call this festival a continuation or sequel to Kyoto’s famous Aoi Matsuri procession which has a Saio-dai princess.
Held for the first time in six years on May 4, 2009 by Nyu Shrine in Yogo, Shiga Prefecture, Japan, the festival features sacred dances, three floats topped with lofty “balancing act” decorations with dolls and teacups, and a procession of colorful dancers and musicians mostly performed by local children. Chigo-no-Mai, Miko-no-Mai, Suzu-no-Mai, Ogi-no-Mai, Hanagasa Odori, and other dances were performed. Also see Shiga Governor Yukiko Kada pulling a float.
In Shiga Prefecture, Japan, Nagahama’s most famous festival features authentic kabuki plays performed by boys in mid-April. A few ornate floats on wheels serve as the stage for talented young actors. This video was shot on April 15, 2009 and shows clips from kabuki performances from all the four floats.
Held by Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, Japan (not to be confused with the Sanno Matsuri held in Tokyo), the annual Sanno Matsuri is held during April 12-14 and features processions, torches at night, violent rocking of portable shrines, and a boat procession on Lake Biwa. This Part 1 video shows the festival on April 13, 2009 which climaxed with the violent rocking of mikoshi portable shrines at night.
This year, Japan had a terrific string of sunny days right during the peak cherry blossom season in early April. Usually, it rains or storms half the time while the cherries are in full bloom. But this year was sunny skies and little wind. I had a great time going out to shoot the flowers under blue skies every day for a week.