In celebration of the birthday of another fellow ALT, a handful of us decided to meet in Kamagaya for the weekend. Our top priority was the festival in Asakusa, the Sanja Matsuri. It’s generally considered one of the largest festivals in Tokyo and attracts around 2 million locals and tourists over the course of 3 days. It’s a weekend long Shinto festival, where three portable shrines are paraded around Asakusa. While those bad-boys are out and about, there is a large array of traditional Japanese music and dance to enjoy. We spent Saturday there on request of Joey for her birthday!
As it was the middle day of the festival, the shrines were moving all about. You couldn’t walk anywhere without running into another group chanting in their traditional gear and carrying a large, shiny mini-shrine. We, of course, paid our respects at the main shrine. It was amazingly crowded and hot that day, but we faired all right. Between cherry blossom ice cream and cold coffees, we managed to survive the heat and the maze of people. As we wandered, we found the Kitsune shrine at the back of the complex. Kitsune means “fox” in Japanese and they are commonly found in ancient Japanese stories as devious and intelligent creatures. They are messengers for Inari, a Shinto God, but can often be found causing trouble.
We also stumbled upon a Noh performance. It was my first time seeing Noh, so that was pretty great. It’s very slow, and difficult to follow because no words are spoken, and this time there was just a drum and a flute playing soft music in the background. There is something very captivating about it, however. It’s quite hard to look away. Their slow and steady movements somehow draw you in.
Taiko was listed on the docket, but sadly it was nowhere to be found. Mostly we just saw men wearing thongs. Seriously, it’s what they wore under their traditional grab. Often, it seemed, they couldn’t be bothered to leave it rolled down. I saw lots of Japanese thigh that day.
After the craziness of the festival, we decided to take it easy and went to Ueno park to enjoy snacks and the fine weather. Then, probably my favorite part of the weekend, we went to this hole-in-the-wall Thai shop in the heart of Tokyo. It was actually in a tunnel under the light rail lines. It looked really grimy and weird, but it was packed with people and delicious looking food. Definitely a place to return to in the near future.
Sunday was more a day to relax and shop. I ended up with way more Japanese books than I intended to buy at the bookstore that day. But, it can’t hurt to have more, right? Then, outside of the complex we were shopping in, a small event was going on with live bands playing ambient rock music. It was really awesome so we took a moment to soak it in. Lastly, on our way back to our friends place in Kamagaya, we stopped in to say hello to Japanese smallest, giant Buddah.
After a nice relaxing weekend, it’s back to work as usual. Today was a Solar Eclipse, and we were lucky enough to be right in the path of the shadow. It was my first full eclipse, that I can remember. It was enchanting. As the moon crossed over the sun, the light dimmed like it was evening and a chill settled all around. At school, students were given the option to arrive early to view the eclipse. Somehow, I feel like this might be symbolic to my life right now. I’m not sure how yet, but I’ll get back to you on that one.
Also, I’ve finally found a Taiko (Japanese drumming) club in Koga, so I hope to give that a shot this weekend! I can’t wait! Now, if only I could get my first paycheck so I can enjoy the fashion in Tokyo, too!
Ja, mata ne (see you later)!
My friend Kris Brackin took the majority of the stunning Asakusa pictures! Gregory Halverson took amazing the eclipse picture!