Aug 22, 2017

Japan For Free - The great Fukagawa Summer Festival

Every 3 years the Fukagawa Summer Festival takes place directly in my neighborhood. It belongs to one of the three great Shinto festivals in Tokyo. The other two are the Kanda and Sanno Festival. The festival took place for the first time in 1642 around the Tomioka Hachiman Shrine. The festival is held every year, but there is only every 3 years the big variation over 5 days.
Japan For Free - The great Fukagawa Summer Festival photo
The festival takes place every year in the middle of August around the Obon period, which is very convenient, as many Japanese at this time have days off. I had time off too, that's why I used the chance to visit the festival every day.
Of course you ask yourself, "Why every day?" Quite simply there is every day a different program and if you live only 5 minutes away from the venue, why not use that chance.
The weather on these days was very bad and it rained often. However, whenever we wanted to go to the festival, it stopped raining! On Friday we went to the great taiko event at the shrine. The program featured 10 taiko groups that had been drumming for 5 hours. I really love taiko, so it was perfect for me. Around the station of Monzen Nakacho and the shrine Tomioka Hachimangu small food stalls or small booths were everywhere.
Japan For Free - The great Fukagawa Summer Festival photo
On Saturday, there were some traditional Japanese performances like noh-theatre, shamisen and koto performances. Also the children are pulling mikoshi (small shrine, a god is living inside) through the streets. It was so sweet to see when 15 small children carried a mini mikoshi through the area, which could easily be carried by an adult alone. The main event was on Sunday. For that, the large main road Eitai was blocked and you could walk on the big street.
Japan For Free - The great Fukagawa Summer Festival photo
Already at 7:30 on Sunday morning loud cannon shots sounded from outside. Whoever had not been up until then was awake after that noise. The cannon shots symbolized the beginning of the great mikoshi parade, which crossed through our city district as well as to Odaiba and Nihonbashi.

The big finale always takes place directly in front of my house, which is great, as I can watch the whole bustle relaxed from the balcony without standing between all the visitors.
However we wanted to get a little bit closer so we went down to the street and waited for the parade. We were in the front row when the big mikoshi were sprayed with water. It was unbelievable how many people joined the parade. One group was very huge, destined to the 100 people who had run and jumped wildly in front of us. It was like a fire wall that came to us. It was incredibly hot because of all the people who have carried the shrine.
Japan For Free - The great Fukagawa Summer Festival photo
You can really feel the energy that is running through this event. Every team that carries a shrine is so enthusiastic that it is really great.
Japan For Free - The great Fukagawa Summer Festival photo
As Saturday and Sunday, of course, the most visitors, it was very crowded everywhere. On Friday as well as Monday (Tuesday is mostly for the locals) it is less crowded and you can enjoy it more to walk around.

On Monday we went back to the shrine to see a noh theatre performance. Unfortunately, it was very difficult to understand even if you could understand Japanese . It was a little bit boring, too, because nothing happened really.
However, I wanted to see the traditional dance "odori" which was afterwards. Several groups from all over Japan have performed a traditional dance wearing yukata. I loved to see many different kind of yukata.
Of course, there was also some craftsmanship to see. A few ladies exhibited their ikebana artworks:
Japan For Free - The great Fukagawa Summer Festival photo
On Tuesday, the last day of the festival, there was a full program again, which was shown mainly inside of the big shrine, because of the heavy rain.
We were interested in the final performance, which was an Indonesian music and dance group. Unfortunately, it was very difficult to see something. The performance was inside the shrine and seats were limited, so most of the people tried to catch a glimpse from outside.

Nevertheless, it was once again a nice festival. I am already looking forward to 2020, when the next big Fukagawa summer festival will be held right after the Olympics!



I´m a german girl living in the center of Tokyo, but my true love belongs to the countryside of Japan (especially Chiba and Hokkaido). I love traveling Japan and explore hidden areas.
I want to help people with my articles to get in touch with the Japanese culture and all the beautiful places you can explore.

Besides traveling around, I love trains, handcraft and my little rabbits.