Koganji Temple (Togenuki Jizo) in Sugamo

Koganji Temple Hondo main hall.

On the northern and less crowded part of the JR Yamanote Line in Tokyo is Sugamo Station. Sugamo is famous for the Jizo-Dori shopping street near the train station. Dubbed the “Grandma’s Harajuku,” Jizo-Dori is supposedly where the elderly do their fashion shopping. Although shops do cater to the older generation, it is also lined with about 200 restaurants, confection shops, and other businesses for local residents. It still feels more like a local neighborhood than a touristy one.

Entrance to Sugamo Jizo-Dori shopping street.
Jizo statue at Shinshoji Temple, a Shingon Buzan School Buddhist temple.

About 800 meters long, Sugamo Jizo-Dori street (巣鴨地蔵通) was named after the large Jizo bodhisattva statue at Shinshoji Temple (眞性寺) at Jizo-Dori’s entrance. Cast in 1714, this Jizo was one of the “Six Jizo of Edo” placed on the main gateway roads from Edo (Tokyo) during the 18th century as a protector of travelers against illness. Sugamo was along the old Nakasendo Road to Kyoto. In 1891, another Jizo was added to Jizo-Dori when the famous Koganji Temple moved here.

Jizo statues at Koganji.

Jizo is popularly known as the protector of children (especially deceased children who died before their parents), travelers, and firefighters. He is also the saviour of souls suffering in the underworld or hell. Commonly found in Japan on roadsides and graves, Jizo statues are usually depicted as a small Buddhist monk with a shaved head, halo, and staff. There are actually many kinds of Jizo with different powers, and a unique one is at Koganji Temple, nicknamed “Togenuki Jizo.”

Koganji’s Sanmon front gate built in Sept. 1980.

Koganji Temple (高岩寺) is a short walk from the entrance of Jizo-Dori street and Sugamo’s main attraction. Although it’s not a huge nor architecturally significant Buddhist temple, it’s very popular and famous as a healing temple backed by intriguing Jizo stories of health miracles.

Koganji is a Soto Zen Buddhist temple with its own congregation, but most worshippers are outsiders. Jizo-Dori and Koganji see 8 million visitors annually. Over 100,000 come on the temple’s Ennichi festival days (縁日) held monthly on the 4th, 14th, and 24th when they have food and souvenir stalls along Jizo-Dori street. The Ennichi festival aims to have people attain a closer connection with Jizo. It originated when the temple decided to allow souvenir stalls along the path to the temple to attract visitors since Sugamo was still a backwater when Koganji moved here in 1891. These souvenir stalls morphed into the many shops and eateries now on Jizo-dori street.

The temple has nine priests including the head/resident priest and four live-in college trainees who are studying to take over their own temples back home. The main temple hall (Hondo) is open from 6:00 am to 5:00 pm (or until 8:00 pm on festival days).

Jizo-Dori shopping street crowded on one of the Ennichi festival days.
Souvenir stalls in front of Koganji on an Ennichi festival day.

One thing you need to know is that the temple is strictly non-smoking. In fact, the entire Jizo-Dori street prohibits smoking, thanks to the tireless efforts of Koganji’s head and resident priest, Rev. Akinori Kuruma. When I first requested an interview, the first thing he told me before anything else was, “Smoking is not allowed at Koganji. Are you okay with that?” I don’t smoke so it wasn’t a problem. More about him later.

Koganji’s nice public square with benches and “No smoking” symbols.
People can take a break and relax at Koganji.

Koganji Temple is most interesting for its legends, stories, and beliefs about promoting good health and prolonging human life. It’s what everyone wants, so no wonder it’s such a popular temple. Originally established in Kanda in 1596 as a Soto Zen Buddhist temple, Koganji was consumed by the Great Meireki Fire in 1657 and moved to present-day Ueno where it started to worship Jizo. Due to urban redevelopment, it was later forced to relocate to its present location in Sugamo in 1891. The temple was destroyed during the war in 1945 and the current Hondo main hall was rebuilt in 1958.

Koganji Temple’s principal object of worship is Togenuki Jizo. “Togenuki” literally means “thorn extraction,” an attention-grabbing name for a one-of-a-kind Jizo. Surprisingly, Koganji’s Togenuki Jizo is not a statue. And it’s not the stone statue you see people washing right outside the temple hall.

Koganji’s thorn-extraction Jizo legend (or truth) starts in May 1713 in Koishikawa, Edo (Tokyo) with the Jizo believer wife of a samurai named Tatsuki (or Tatsuke) Matashiro (田付又四郎). After giving birth to a boy, she fell ill and was near death. Doctors couldn’t do anything. On her deathbed, she confessed that a vengeful spirit had cursed her family so the women in her family would not live beyond age 25. Even her older sister had died at 25.

Husband Matashiro kept praying for her until one night a black-robed monk appeared in his dream. The monk told him to imprint a Jizo image on 10,000 small pieces of paper to be floated on the river. When he awoke from the dream, he found a small wooden stamp at his pillow which he used to imprint the Jizo image on the paper. This paper talisman was called “omikage” (御影). While praying, he floated the 10,000 imprinted pieces of paper from Ryogoku Bridge over Sumida River.

Next morning, his wife told him that she saw the God of Death being booted out by a black-robed monk with his staff. The wife gradually got better and recovered completely by November the same year. She never got sick again. It was essential to sincerely believe in the healing powers of Jizo, otherwise there would be no miracles. Both the wife and husband were devout Jizo believers.

Later, Matashiro talked about his wife’s miraculous recovery at an acquaintance’s house where a Buddhist priest named Saijun (西順) was there. Saijun asked for a Jizo-imprinted omikage paper talisman, and Matashiro gave him two. This priest happened to be a regular visitor to the Edo residence of the famous Mori samurai clan from Choshu (Yamaguchi Prefecture).

One day in 1715, a housemaid working at the Mori clan’s Edo residence accidentally swallowed a broken needle she had put in her mouth while sewing. The needle caused her much pain in her throat and stomach. The doctor could do nothing. Priest Saijun then came and told her to swallow the small, Jizo-imprinted paper talisman with a cup of water. The housemaid did so and soon threw up and out came the little paper talisman with the needle stuck in it. This where the name “Togenuki” comes from since it literally means, “thorn extraction.” This story was actually written by Matashiro himself in 1728 and the temple has a written record of it. So it could well be a true story. This Jizo is also called the “Life-Prolonging Jizo.”

The temple soon started offering these tiny omikage paper talismans imprinted with a Jizo image. Koganji’s miracle stories spread throughout Japan, and small woodblocks were made to imprint the Jizo image on small paper pieces. The ritual of floating 10,000 Jizo paper talismans on waterways spread.

Koganji Togenuki Jizo altar area inside the main worship hall. On the left, the small, top chamber keeps the Togenuki Jizo behind closed doors.
Small envelope containing the omikage Jizo paper talismans.

And so Koganji Temple’s main object of worship is just a tiny imprint of Togenuki Jizo’s likeness on a piece of paper smaller than a postage stamp. It is housed in a small chamber at the top of the temple’s main altar. A “hidden Buddha” not shown to the public. The good news is that the temple offers Jizo paper talismans imprinted with the same Togenuki Jizo image. Inside the main worship hall, ask for “omikage.” Open the small envelope and find five Jizo paper talismans. (Not to be shown online or publicly.) You can stick it on your body where you have pain or even swallow it. Remember, you need to believe in Jizo for it to work…

Arai Kannon at Koganji.

Koganji’s more visible object of worship is the Arai Kannon (Washable Kannon 洗い観音) standing outside on left side of the Hondo worship hall. People might mistake this as the Togenuki Jizo since it is usually crowded with people and it is an outdoor stone statue like a Jizo. But if you look carefully at the head, it is not shaven. It is a female-like (unisex actually) Kannon statue. You may see a line of people waiting to wash and wipe the Arai Kannon with water and a towel. They are washing the part of the Kannon’s body where they want to heal their own bodies.

This popular Arai Kannon originated in 1657 when Koganji Temple member Yaneya Kiheiji (屋根屋喜平次) donated the statue to the temple in memory of his wife who died in the Great Meireki Fire that year. Worshippers eventually started to believe that the part of the statue they washed would heal that part on their own body. They used a hand brush and water to wash the Kannon statue. Over the centuries, the statue became worn and it was finally replaced with a new Kannon statue donated in November 1992 by the late temple patron and Buddhist merchandise seller Nakahori Yoshie (中堀義江) and sculpted by Yatsuyanagi Naoki (八柳尚樹). To reduce wear, worshippers now use a towel (sold for ¥100 on site) instead of a brush to wash the Arai Kannon statue. The original Arai Kannon statue is kept in a small chamber right behind the current statue. The face is totally worn out.

Rev. Akinori Kuruma, Koganji’s head priest holding an AED.

The next health story is more modern and recent, centering on Rev. Akinori Kuruma (来馬 明規), Koganji’s 29th-generation head and resident priest. A licensed medical doctor specializing in cardiology, Rev. Kuruma graduated from the renown Nippon Medical School in Tokyo and once did research at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, so his English is quite good. He originally had no intention to take over the temple from his priest father, but as fate had it, he left the medical profession and became a Buddhist priest in 2005 after his father died.

“I wanted to somehow incorporate my medical background in my new occupation,” he says. He promptly started a no-smoking movement and pushed for the installation of AEDs (automated external defibrillator) along Jizo-Dori street. Smoking was banned at Koganji, but it took a while to convince the merchants of Jizo-Dori to ban smoking.

The restaurants feared that they would see fewer customers if they went smoke-free. However, as Jizo-Dori slowly went smoke-free, they noticed that more mothers with young children started visiting. That convinced shop owners to go smoke-free and even the tobacco shop was shuttered and cigarette vending machines removed. Rev. Kuruma has done such an admirable job.

Koganji’s anti-smoking uchiwa fan. It basically says, “Extract the tobacco thorn to prolong your life and be happy.” (Including vaping.)

But outside Jizo-Dori, it’s still an uphill battle against smoking. Rev. Kuruma openly protested against Toshima Ward (where Koganji is located) having an ineffective outdoor smoking area on the east side of Ikebukuro Station in June 2013 even though Toshima Ward had been designated as a World Health Organization-certified Safe Community in Nov. 2012. Also, many priests in his own sect and other Buddhist sects in Japan and around the world smoke as well, much to his disdain. Rev. Kuruma continues to be an anti-smoking activist and lectures all over Japan as a medical doctor and priest about the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke.

AED at Koganji Temple.

Rev. Kuruma was also an early adopter of AEDs in 2005 when they were still rare and not many people knew about it. It was in 2005 when Japan allowed non-medical personnel to also use AEDs. That’s when it started to spread and AEDs were soon installed at Koganji and Jizo-Dori. Jizo-Dori became an AED model case for other shopping neighborhoods that followed suit.

In 2007, Koganji started AED/CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) classes at its social hall. Rev. Kuruma is a certified AED/CPR instructor and hundreds of local merchants and residents have taken Konganji’s AED/CPR classes. Word has spread and he also conducts AED/CPR classes for other organizations including Buddhist temples. The temple’s AED has even once saved a life or two on Jizo-Dori street.

Since 1959, the temple also has a free counseling center manned by lawyers, social workers, priests, psychologists, and other professional counselors to help with people’s problems. Many people find a solution just by talking to someone about their problems. Rev. Kuruma believes that Buddhist temples must integrate with the local community and help people while they are still alive. (Buddhist temples are typically viewed as a place for the deceased only.)

By religiously and medically advocating good health and prolonged life, Rev. Kuruma has really taken Koganji’s mission up to a new level. The temple has become a bastion for good health and longer life. A rare Buddhist temple indeed.

Koganji Temple’s Major Events

  • Ennichi Festival Days: On the 4th, 14th, and 24th of every month. (Major festivals [Taisai] on Jan. 24, May 24, and Sept. 24.)
  • Early Morning Prayers every morning at 6:30 a.m.–6:45 a.m. in the temple.
  • New Year’s services (30-min.) on Jan. 1st (6:00 a.m.) and 2nd–3rd (6:30 a.m.).
  • Setsubun Bean-Throwing Festival on Feb. 3rd at 4:00 p.m.

*Special thanks to Rev. Akinori Kuruma for his kind cooperation for this article.

Website: https://www.sugamo.or.jp/prayer_detail01.html

*This article is an expanded version of my article published in via magazine, the onboard magazine of the Airport Limousine bus in the Tokyo area and lobby magazine at all branches of Mizuho Bank in Japan.

Other Tokyo Temple articles:

Koganji Temple, Sugamo (Winter 2019)

Tsukiji Hongwanji Temple (Autumn 2018)

Asakusa Sensoji Temple (Summer 2018)

Zojoji Temple (Spring 2018)

Visit to Toyooka, Hyogo Prefecture

In Oct. 2018, I visited Toyooka, Hyogo Prefecture for the first time. Famous for the Oriental white stork, Toyooka turned out to be a great tourist town with lots to see besides the beautiful storks. Toyooka is about a 2.5-hour express train ride north of Osaka or Kyoto Station.

First on my list for Toyooka was the Hyogo Park of the Oriental White Stork (兵庫県立コウノトリの郷公園). The Oriental White Stork Park is a short bus ride from JR Toyooka Station (JR San’in Line). Free admission. http://www.stork.u-hyogo.ac.jp/

The Oriental White Stork Park is in the middle of rice paddies near some mountains. It is a bird sanctuary, college research facility, stork museum, and tourist attraction (gift shops).

Once found all over Japan, the Oriental white stork (“kounotori” in Japanese) became extinct in the wild in Japan in 1971 despite preservation efforts since 1955. Toyooka was where the last living Oriental white stork in Japan died in 1986. Pesticides in rice paddies (where they feed) and other environmental problems caused their demise.

In 1985, six wild Oriental white stork chicks from the USSR (Khabarovsk) were acquired to be raised in Toyooka. From 1989, the birds from Russia started to breed successfully in captivity in Toyooka every year. From 2005, the park started releasing Oriental white storks into the wild in Toyooka, which was a great celebration. The birds then started to breed and reproduce in the wild. They’ve been releasing only a few birds (fewer than 5) almost every year.

As of Oct. 2018, Japan has over 140 Oriental white storks in the wild. They are also successfully breeding in Tokushima, Shimane, and Kyoto Prefectures. It’s still an endangered species, with only slightly over 2,000 of them in the Far East.

Open cage
Open cage with paddies.

The Oriental White Stork Park keeps nine storks in an open cage (no roof), but their wings have been clipped. So all park visitors are guaranteed to see storks here.

One half of the open cage has these terraced paddies where the park feeds the birds once a day. The storks are carnivores, feeding on fish, frogs, snakes, rabbits, mice, etc. The park feeds them mainly fish.

The best time to visit the park is during the feeding time 9:30 am–10 am. Park staff throw small dead fish into the paddies. The storks then go to the paddies and feed. A few wild storks also fly in to feed.

Feeding time at the open cage for Oriental white storks.
Flying in for some grub.
Fighting grey herons.

The storks’ feeding time also attracts unwanted birds like the grey heron (always fighting each other), crows, and black kites trying to steal fish.

The park and adjacent area have nesting platforms. Each nesting platform has a video camera monitoring it 24/7 especially during the egg-laying and hatching season in spring. More Oriental white stork photos here: http://photoguide.jp/pix/thumbnails.php?album=1038

If you take a local bus from JR Toyooka Station to the Oriental white stork park, you may ride a bus that looks like a bag. Toyooka is a major producer of bags. It even has a street named “Caban (Bag) Street” with a number of bag shops.

My next stop in Toyooka was Kinosaki Onsen (城崎温泉), only a 10-min. train ride from JR Toyooka Station. It’s one of the best onsen I’ve ever visited in Japan. It’s picturesque, and the main highlight are the seven public hot spring baths (sotoyu 外湯). They are all distinctly different, the baths, decor, etc. A few of them look palatial. Guests who stay at a ryokan in Kinosaki Onsen can visit all seven public baths for free. But daytrippers like me have to pay admission for each one, costing ¥600 or ¥700. However, they have a public bath day pass for only ¥1,200 (外湯めぐり券). Use it to enter all seven. Great deal! Definitely one of the best bargains in Japan!

Kinosaki Onsen has a long history of 1,300 years. A favorite hot spring for centuries. Lots to see and do. All the attractions are within walking distance from Kinosaki Onsen Station. Compact hot spring town.

Ichinoyu, perhaps the most famous public bath in Kinosaki Onsen. Looks like a kabuki theater. 一の湯
Ichinoyu’s outdoor bath is in a small cavern.
Kinosaki Onsen Ropeway goes to Onsenji Temple.
People are encouraged to stroll around Kinosaki Onsen while wearing yukata.
You can soft-boil your onsen eggs yourself in hot spring water.

More photos of Kinosaki Onsen: http://photoguide.jp/pix/thumbnails.php?album=1042

Shinkoro Clock Tower in Izushi. (辰鼓楼)

Another must-see in Toyooka is Izushi (出石), a short bus ride from JR Toyooka Station. Izushi was town that merged with Toyooka. There’s the Shinkoro Clock Tower, Izushi Castle, and Eirakukan kabuki theater. Izushi soba noodles are also the local favorite. Many soba shops. All the major sights are within walking distance from the Izushi bus terminal.

Izushi Castle (出石城跡)
Eirakukan kabuki theater, the Kansai Region’s oldest kabuki theater built in 1901. (永楽館)
At Eirakukan, you can also go underneath the stage and see the revolving stage. It’s rotated by hand.
Izushi soba is famous for having cold soba served on five small plates. Dip the noodles in the broth while adding different garnishes like grated yam, onions, and raw egg. (出石そば)

You should spend at least two days in Toyooka. The Oriental white stork park and Izushi on one day, and Kinosaki Onsen on another day. Toyooka Station also has the Kyoto Tango Railway that runs to Amanohashidate in northern Kyoto. Lots to see and explore in this area.

More Izushi photos: http://photoguide.jp/pix/thumbnails.php?album=1040

More Toyooka photos: http://photoguide.jp/pix/index.php?cat=363

Visiting Toyosu Market

Visited the new Toyosu Market on the second day (Oct. 15, 2018) it opened to the public. It’s proving to be massively popular among the curious and sushi lovers. This blog post is for people who plan to visit the market. So you know what to expect.

Toyosu Market is near Shijo-mae Station (seen on the left above) on the Yurikamome Line that runs between Shimbashi and Toyosu Stations.

Shijo-mae Station is connected directly to convenient pedestrian overpasses leading to the three Toyosu Market buildings/blocks. (That’s Block 6 in the distance.)

The official website provides this very basic map of Toyosu Market. There are three blocks/buildings all connected to each other and to Shijo-mae Station via pedestrian overpasses. The red lines on this map show the pedestrian overpass to each block. All three buildings have a long tourist corridor with picture windows to see inside the market.

When the market is open (closed on Sun.), tourists can tour the three Toyosu Market buildings from 5 am to 5 pm. However, there’s not much market action after late morning.

Besides the markets, there are sushi restaurants. The problem with this map is that it doesn’t show where the restaurants are. They are in Blocks 6 and 7. Very crowded though.

Block 7 is where the tuna auctions are held, but the public won’t be able to see the auction area until next Jan. But if you come here by 6 am or so, you should be able to see some tuna being hauled away on the floor. This block also has some restaurants.

Block 6 is the largest building of the three. This is where the sold tuna is carved up. This building also has a large sushi restaurant area that is not indicated on this map. The upper floor also has little shops (Uogashi Yokocho Market) for people who work at the market. They sell knives, tea, etc., and also sell to the public, but the shops close by 2 pm or so.

Block 5 is the fruit and vegetable market. Least crowded. No restaurants inside.

This is Block 7 where the tuna auctions are held. Let’s enter here first. Notice the pedestrian overpass going into the building.
Directional signs for tourists are in Japanese, English, Chinese, and Korean.
Block 7 has this small exhibition room with photos of the old Tsukiji fish market and other things.
Exhibition room in Block 7.
Tuna display in the small exhibition room in Block 7.
Toyosu Market’s official mascot: Itchi-no.
Information desk in Block 7’s exhibition room. Lots of questions from foreigners to staff who couldn’t really speak English.
Another crowd-pleasing tuna display in Block 7. Life-size model of the biggest tuna ever sold at Tsukiji fish market in April 1986. 2.88 meters long, 496 kg. Didn’t say how much it sold for.
Block 7’s tourist corridor with glass windows to see the tuna floor.
View of the tuna floor in Block 7. The floor was painted green for better contrast with the tuna’s red flesh to assess the quality. We visited around 2 pm, so nobody was here. You have to come here by 6 am or 7 am to see some action.

Nice bilingual (Japanese and English) explanatory panels in the corridors. At 2 am, they unload the tuna here. At 4 am, buyers examine the tuna and assess the bid price. At 4:30 am, auction starts. At 7 am, the buyers are busy hauling away the tuna.

Hand signals to indicate numbers at auctions.
By far, tuna is the biggest product the fish market handles annually at 21,692 tons (as of 2015).
Block 7 has a restaurant section (not indicated on the official map). All crowded.
Next is Block 6 where the fish is carved up and sold to sushi restaurants and supermarkets. This is the largest building of the three.
Block 6 has this small entrance to the restaurant section.

Block 6’s restaurant section is the larger one at Toyosu Market. However, all the restaurants were totally crowded with people by 1:30 pm. Many restaurants that were at Tsukiji moved here or opened a branch here. Wanna wait 1 to 2 hours for sushi?? Nope, but these people don’t seem to mind.

If you want sushi and don’t want to wait in line, go to the Tsukiji Outer Market instead.

Long lines everywhere for sushi. The restaurants usually sell out by 2 pm, then they close. The huge crowd is either here for the novelty of a new attraction or they may be a strong sign of Toyosu Market’s massive popularity.

I’m afraid the Tsukiji Outer Market will soon be marginalized by Toyosu Market. The market is the heart and soul, and it’s now in Toyosu. The fishmongers in Toyosu are very gung-ho now and really want the Toyosu brand to exceed the old Tsukiji brand.

Only this coffee shop was not crowded. So we gave up having a sushi lunch at Toyosu Market. There are plans to build larger restaurant facilities in buildings adjacent to the market. However, they won’t open until 2023.
After seeing the Block 6 restaurants, we walked along this long corridor and entered the market part of the building.
Block 6’s market entry hall had two turret trucks on display.
Anybody could get on the turret truck and pose for photos.
Also in the corridor, bilingual explanatory panels for identifying fish.

Block 6 has many windows for tourists, but you can hardly see anything. We can see just a small slit of the market floor. Just a pathway for the people and turret trucks, you don’t see the sellers. However, I was later told that there is also a viewing deck on the first floor where there is a better view.

Block 6’s upper floor has a section of shops called Uogashi Yokocho Market. (This section is not indicated on the official map.) These are small shops catering mainly to market workers. They also sell to the public. However, by 2:00 pm most of the stores were closing.

Cutlery shop in Uogashi Yokocho Market.
Map of Uogashi Yokocho Market in Block 6. Lots of little shops.
Many of the shops had congratulatory flowers for their grand opening.
Lastly, this is the fruit and vegetable market, Block 5.
Entrance to the fruit and vegetable market.
The observation corridor for tourists inside the fruit and vegetable market. Lots of windows, but they don’t show much.
Each observation window was color-coded and named after a fruit or vegetable. A nice touch.
Not much to see though.
Corridor wall also had panels explaining the history of the food and vegetable market in Tokyo.
Better view of the fruit/vegetable market toward the end of the corridor.
Hauling green onions.
At the end of the corridor, there’s this big observation deck where you can see the wholesale section of the fruit and vegetable market.
Not much action in the fruit and vegetable market since it was in the afternoon.
The fruit market’s biggest item is mikan (tangerines), then citrus.
The vegetable market’s biggest item is cabbage, then daikon.
Across the water from Toyosu is the Tokyo Olympic Village under construction.

Since we couldn’t eat sushi at Toyosu Market, we took the train to Toyosu Station two stops away and had a late lunch there instead. Near Toyosu Station is a restaurant called Cafe Haus. It’s a good restaurant. At least we ate in Toyosu.

On a street corner near Toyosu Station is where 7-11’s first store in Japan opened in 1974. It’s still operating here in the same building. Toyosu is quite a new, modern town. Lots of construction still going on. It’s turning out quite well.

Tsukiji Hongwanji Temple

With the world-famous Tsukiji fish market moving from Tsukiji to Toyosu in October 2018, Tokyo’s Tsukiji area is undergoing major changes. After 83 years of Tsukiji being synonymous with Tokyo’s fish market, a glorious chapter in Tsukiji’s history has ended.

But every ending has a new beginning. The former fish market’s popular Outer Market with sushi restaurants and shops has been enhanced and will stay put to continue the Tsukiji brand. Also spreading its wings in Tsukiji is the venerable Tsukiji Hongwanji Buddhist Temple (築地本願寺), almost next door to the Outer Market.

Tsukiji Hongwanji is the Tokyo headquarters temple of the Jodo Shinshu Pure Land sect (Hongwanji School 浄土真宗 本願寺派), Japan’s largest Buddhist sect with over 10,000 temples in Japan and over 7 million adherents. It is also the largest traditional Japanese Buddhist sect outside Japan with about 200 temples and groups overseas, mainly in Hawaii (30+) and North and South America (100+). The mother temple is Nishi Hongwanji (World Heritage Site) in Kyoto. Tsukiji Hongwanji employs about 70 priests headed by Ohtani Kojun (大谷光淳 1977– ) who is also the sect’s 25th head priest (Monshu 門主) and descendant of sect founder Shinran (親鸞 1173–1263).

It is not to be confused with Higashi Hongwanji belonging to the Jodo Shinshu Otani School. (Note that “Hongwanji” is pronounced “Honganji.” It is spelled “Hongwanji” because that’s the way it was archaically romanized in the late 19th century when the sect started propagating overseas. It was before standardized romanization [Hepburn system] was popularly adopted in Japan and the sect has not changed this original spelling which remains the official spelling in English.)

Barrel vault roof shaped like a Bodhi tree leaf.

Enter Tsukiji Hongwanji’s front gate and behold an imposing Indian-style building unlike any other Buddhist temple in Japan. This is the main worship hall (Hondo) with the center roof having a barrel vault, shaped like a Bodhi tree leaf containing a lotus flower design. The design is similar to the Ajanta Buddhist Caves (Cave 9) in India. It is complemented by stupas on the left and right ends of the building.

Built in 1934 in ferroconcrete, the Hondo was designed by Ito Chuta (伊東 忠太 1867–1954), a renown architect who also designed Meiji Shrine, Yushima Seido, Heian Shrine, Haiseiden, and many other buildings. He had studied architecture in India, China, and Turkey. Tsukiji Hongwanji is one of his greatest masterpieces blending Indian, Western, Islamic, and Japanese design elements. He included many interesting little features like winged lions, animal sculptures, stained glass, and Islamic arches.

Go up the center steps to enter the main temple hall.
Winged lions at the bottom of the steps.

The original temple was first built in 1617 near Higashi Nihonbashi and called “Edo Asakusa Mido.” It was destroyed by the Great Meireki Fire in 1657, then relocated and rebuilt on reclaimed land aptly named “Tsukiji” (“built-up land”) in 1679. Called “Tsukiji Gobo” (築地御坊), it was a Japanese-style temple that faced what is now the Outer Market. The Outer Market area was originally a temple town with many secondary temples. Tsukiji Gobo was consumed by fire in 1923 caused by the Great Kanto Earthquake.

The temple was then totally redesigned and rebuilt in 1934 facing the direction it faces today, away from the Outer Market area where only three temples remain today. Tsukiji Hongwanji and the Outer Market have had a long joint history.

During World War II in March 1945, the Hondo luckily missed being firebombed. The Indian-style temple has thus survived to this day. In 2012, the temple’s official name was changed from “Hongwanji Tsukiji Betsuin” to “Tsukiji Hongwanji.” In practice though, people have always referred to it as “Tsukiji Hongwanji.” The nickname is now the official name. It has retained the archaic English spelling of “Hongwanji” (vs. “Honganji”) as part of its official name in English as do the sect’s temples in Hawaii. In 2014, the Hondo, temple gate pillars, and perimeter stone walls were designated as National Important Cultural Properties.

To enter the Hondo, pass the winged lions and go up the center steps to the second floor. The interior is impressive with an ornate ceiling, a large golden altar area, and a huge pipe organ in the back. Instead of tatami mats, there are 550 chairs. No need to take off your shoes. The interior blends Japanese, Jodo Shinshu, Indian, and Western design. Anyone can enter the Hondo for free (open daily 6:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.). An English brochure is also available.

Altar inside Tsukiji Hongwanji’s air-conditioned Hondo main worship hall.
Hondo main worship hall’s maximum capacity is 1,000 including standing room.
Carved ranma transoms in gold leaf. 欄間
There are English instructions on how to pray and offer incense.
A standing statue of Amida Buddha at the altar’s center.

The large altar is gold to symbolize the Pure Land. The gold leaf was completely redone in 2012 for the first time since the temple was built. The principal object of reverence is a standing Amida Buddha statue in the center. On the left and right of the main altar are secondary altars and sub-chambers for other subjects of reverence. On the right are a secondary altar for sect founder Shinran and a sub-chamber for Prince Shotoku Taishi (574–622) who introduced Buddhism to Japan.

On the left is an altar with a scroll painting of Shonyo (勝如上人 1911–2002), the sect’s 23rd Monshu (during 1927–1977) and former head priest of Tsukiji Hongwanji who widely spread the teachings even overseas. His real name was Kosho Otani (大谷光照), a cousin of the late Emperor Hirohito and the grandfather of the current Monshu. The left sub-chamber has the Seven Jodo Shinshu Patriarchs (scroll paintings) named by Shinran as the key Buddhist monks in India, China, and Japan who helped develop the Jodo Shinshu religion. It is typical for temples of this sect to have secondary altars for Shinran, Shotoku Taishi, and the Seven Jodo Shinshu Patriarchs.

Shinran on the immediate right of the main altar.
Seven Jodo Shinshu Patriarchs in Tsukiji Hongwanji.
You can see priests chanting in front of the altar daily at 7:00 a.m. (45 min.) and 4:30 p.m. (15 min.).
Tsukiji Hongwanji’s pipe organ pipes. The organ is on the lower right in the photo.

The back of the Hondo has the huge pipe organ with 2,000 pipes. It was donated by the Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai Buddhist propagation society and installed in 1970. Played for weddings, services, and lunchtime concerts on the last Friday of the month at 12:20 p.m.–12:50 p.m.

Lotus flower stained glass above the Hondo’s front door.
Marble statues of Buddhist-related animals along the stairway to the Hondo’s 1st floor.
Memorial table for hide (X Japan) on the 1st floor lobby of the Hondo.

Another must-see “altar” is the memorial table for hide (pronounced “hee-day”), the legendary guitarist for the heavy metal band X Japan who died at age 33. Ever since his funeral was held at Tsukiji Hongwanji in May 1998 (attended by 50,000), fans have been paying tribute here by leaving memorabilia, letters, photos, and notebooks filled with handwritten messages even in English by foreigners. Perhaps this is the only major temple in Japan to have something like this for a rock star.

On the left of the Hondo, entrance to Mombo Hall.
Mombo Hall (聞法ホール)

On the left of the main temple hall is Mombo Hall (聞法ホール), a small worship hall. This is where the English Service and fellowship is held on the last Saturday of the month at 5:30 p.m.–7:30 p.m. Check their web page for the exact schedule and guest sermon.

In 2017 for its 400th anniversary, Tsukiji Hongwanji started a new outreach project (“Tera to Project” 「寺と」プロジェクト) to make itself more integral, relevant, and helpful in the community. Indeed, their summer bon dance celebration is now a huge outdoor food fest attracting 80,000 over four evenings. People fill the chairs and tables spread over almost the entire area in front of the temple. Lots of people dance around the yagura tower too. The food booths are popular and a few are run by eateries from the Tsukiji Outer Market.

Tsujiki Hongwanji bon dance in early Aug. 2018.
Costume Night at Tsukiji Hongwanji bon dance. Also watch the hilarious video below.

A major part of this outreach project is the Information Center that opened in November 2017 left of the Hondo. It houses mainly Cafe Tsumugi (open every day 8:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.) along with a multilingual information desk, temple gift shop, lecture room, and bookshop (2nd floor). During the bon dance, the rooftop is open for diners like a beer garden.

Information Center opened in Nov. 2017.
Inside the Information Center, Cafe Tsumugi (open 8:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.) .
Cafe Tsumugi’s Japanese Breakfast with 18 Dishes (18品の朝ごはん).

Operated by the Pronto coffee shop chain, Cafe Tsumugi has an extensive menu for meals (Japanese and Western cuisine), drinks (including alcohol), and confections. They even have power outlets for laptops, tablets, etc. For breakfast served 8:00 a.m.–10:30 a.m., I had to try their “Japanese Breakfast with 18 Dishes” (18品の朝ごはん). The picture on the menu makes it irresistible. A colorful assortment of 18 dishes including rice porridge, miso soup, and flavorful bite-size dishes like salmon roe, eggplant, tofu, duck, and matcha jelly dessert. A few of the dishes like the fried egg and fish cake were made by famous eateries at the Outer Market. The number “18” refers to the 18th and primal vow (hongan) of Amida Buddha. Hot or cold tea is included. Definitely social media material.

Note that Cafe Tsumugi has become very popular for breakfast (8:00 a.m.–10:30 a.m.). They now distribute reservation tickets (seiriken) to the first 110 people in line for breakfast. It’s less crowded for lunch and dinner when no reservation tickets are required.

Temple gift shop inside the Information Center.

Tsukiji Hongwanji has other notable buildings, facilities, monuments, and even graves. The Hondo building has a modern building on both the right and left ends. The building on the right end is the Daiichi Dendo Kaikan (第一伝道会館) open to the public. It houses a tea lounge, restaurant, meeting rooms, and temple lodging facilities (3rd floor).

The left end has the Daini Dendo Kaikan (第二伝道会館) mainly housing the Rengeden worship hall (蓮華殿) for smaller funerals, weddings, etc., for up to 200 people.

On the right end of the Hondo, the Daiichi Dendo Kaikan (第一伝道会館).
Daini Dendo Kaikan (第二伝道会館) on the left end of the Hondo.
Rengeden worship hall (蓮華殿) in Daini Dendo Kaikan.

The left stupa houses the temple bell. On New Year’s Eve, the public can enter the left stupa to ring out the old year or ring in the new year. The right stupa is currently not used for anything.

Tsukiji Hongwanji’s left stupa houses the temple bell.
Temple bell inside Tsukiji Hongwanji’s left stupa (not open to the public).
On New Year’s Eve at Tsukiji Hongwanji, the first 350 people can enter the left stupa and ring out the old year from 10:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. (Joya-e).
Hanamatsuri (Buddha’s birthday) on April 8 is another major event with a neighborhood parade led by a white elephant.

Next to the Information Center, the Goudoubo (合同墓) is like a communal gravesite opened in Nov. 2017. Compared to conventional cemeteries, it is a low-cost way to keep and maintain a grave for yourself and to assure that priests will keep praying for you.

Goudoubo (合同墓) communal gravesite and worship hall.
Temple gate pillars at the front gate (photo) and side gates are National Important Cultural Properties.
Perimeter stone walls are National Important Cultural Properties.
Statue of sect founder Saint Shinran, built in 1975.
Monuments and graves along the front perimeter. English provided.

With the fish market gone, Tsukiji Hongwanji and the Outer Market are destined to take the helm and continue working together for the betterment of Tsukiji and its visitors. I look forward to seeing how Tsukiji’s new era will unfold.

Tsukiji Hongwanji is closest to subway stations Tsukiji (Hibiya Line), Higashi-Ginza (Asakusa Line), Tsukiji-shijo (Oedo Line), and Shintomicho (Yurakucho Line). 
Map: https://goo.gl/maps/LocKLpvtNvs

*Special thanks to Tsukiji Hongwanji and Cafe Tsumugi for their kind cooperation for this article.

Website: http://tsukijihongwanji.jp/

*This article is an expanded version of my article published in via magazine, the onboard magazine of the Airport Limousine bus in the Tokyo area and lobby magazine at all branches of Mizuho Bank in Japan.

Other Tokyo Temple articles:

Koganji Temple, Sugamo (Winter 2019)

Tsukiji Hongwanji Temple (Autumn 2018)

Asakusa Sensoji Temple (Summer 2018)

Zojoji Temple (Spring 2018)

Awa Odori 2018 schedule in Tokyo-Kanto

This is the 2018 schedule of Awa Odori dance festivals to be held in the Tokyo/Kanto area (Tokyo, Saitama, Kanagawa, and Chiba Prefectures) from June to October 2018. Nobody has compiled such a schedule so I did it myself.

Most Awa Odori are held in the summer and a few are held in autumn. A few are held as part of a local festival like Tanabata. Most are held on two days, but a few are held only on one day. Some Awa Odori also have a festival eve events on the day before the Awa Odori.

Official websites usually have information only in Japanese. Click on the train station names to see a Google Map of that station. Double question marks (??) indicate unconfirmed info. Also, an illustrated list of essential Awa Odori vocabulary is provided at the end. (Great for people learning Japanese.)

Go to Schedule by Month:

June | July | August | September | October

Note for spectators:
Summer can be very hot and humid. Be prepared with cold drinks, ice pack, etc. Rain (including typhoons) is always possible. A raincoat is better than an umbrella in crowds. Watch the weather and be prepared. Heavy rain or storms can cancel the event. Take pictures/videos only from the sidelines, do not enter the parade route to shoot. Do not use tripods. Strollers should not be used. And no smoking.

Festivals can always be canceled in bad weather. Typhoons and rainstorms are always possible in summer. If the weather forecast looks bad, check whether the festival will be held.

*Awa Odori in Tokushima is held annually on Aug. 12th–15th, 2018.

*Awa Odori scheduled for July 28–29 may be canceled due to the typhoon.

東京・関東地方の阿波おどりの2018年の日程(英語)

Compiled by Philbert Ono, Updated: Aug. 25, 2018

–JUNE 2018 (6月)–

Hibiya Expo Oedo Matsuri 日比谷大江戸まつり (Tokyo)
・When: June 9–10, 2018, 10:00 am–8:00 pm (till 6:00 pm on 10th)
・Where: Hibiya Park, near Hibiya Station, Kasumigaseki Station, and JR Yurakucho Station.
・About: Only a few awa odori troupes appear in this parade of different festivals.
・Video:
・Photos:
・Official website: https://www.hibiyapark.info/2018/hibiya-expo-2018/

–JULY 2018 (7月)–

Koiwa Awa Odori 小岩阿波おどり (Katsushika-ku, Tokyo)
・When: July 7, 2018, 6:15 pm–8:15 pm
・Where: Near JR Koiwa Station, North Exit (JR Sobu Line).
・About: New awa odori that started four years ago. About 15 troupes.
・Video:
・Photos:
・Official website: https://koiwa-awaodri.jimdo.com/

Oedo Niiza Matsuri (Awa Odori) 大江戸新座祭り (阿波おどり) (Niiza, Saitama)
・When: July 21, 2018, 3:30 pm–7:30 pm
・Where: Near JR Niiza Station (JR Musashino Line), South Exit, Furusato Niiza-kan hall area.
・About: The Niiza Awa Odori was held for 32 years until 2014. It has been replaced by this Oedo Niiza Festival in 2015. It is now a local summer festival starting at 11:00 am and featuring a variety of stage entertainment and performers including a school band, hip hop, and samba dancers before climaxing with Awa Odori in the end during 5:05 pm–7:30 pm. About 20 Awa Odori troupes will dance.
・Video:
・Photos:
・Official website: http://www.ooedo-niiza.com/

Kagurazaka Matsuri Festival (Awa Odori) 神楽坂まつり(阿波おどり) (Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo)
・When: July 27–28, 2018, 7:00 pm–9:00 pm (Children’s dance on 28th from 6 pm to 7 pm) (JULY 28 CANCELED DUE TO THE TYPHOON)
・Where: Near JR Iidabashi Station (JR Sobu Line and subway lines), Kagurazaka Station (Tozai Line), Ushigome-Kagurazaka Station (Oedo Line).
・About: Held since 1972. Over 40 dance troupes and a total of 3,700 participants. The local troupe is Kagurazaka Kagura-ren with over 100 members.
・Video: https://youtu.be/wn7l7WB1ndc
・Photos: http://photoguide.jp/pix/thumbnails.php?album=698
・Official website: http://www.kagurazaka.in/kagurazaka_festival/47th_festival/

Kasei Awa Odori かせい阿波おどり (Nakano-ku, Tokyo)
・When: July 28 (4:00 pm–6:00 pm CANCELLED DUE TO TYPHOON) and 29 (5:00 pm–8:00 pm), 2018
・Where: Near Toritsu Kasei Station (Seibu Shinjuku Line).
・About: Held since 1979. About 10 troupes will dance along the narrow shopping street near the train station. Since the dance route is narrow, you can see the dancers up close. The dance route is cut in half (north and south) by the train line. Local troupe is Kasei-ren formed by the local neighborhood when the festival started.
・Video: https://youtu.be/62G4ZJHJSBE
・Photos:
・Official website: https://www.facebook.com/%E3%81%8B%E3%81%9B%E3%81%84%E9%80%A3-369020693216519/

Kitamachi Awa Odori きたまち阿波おどり (Nerima-ku, Tokyo)
・When: July 28, 2018, 6:00 pm
・Where: Near Tobu Nerima Station, South Exit (Tobu-Tojo Line). (DUE to the TYPHOON, to be held indoors at the Kitamachi Jr. High Gymnasium)
・About: Kitamachi is a small neighborhood near Tobu-Nerima Station. Over 20 dance troupe including local troupes from Kitamachi: Ponpoko-ren and Jajauma-ren.
・Video: https://youtu.be/du1UHBzhS1U
・Photos: http://photoguide.jp/pix/thumbnails.php?album=697
・Official website: http://www.kitamachi-awaodori.com/

Mobara Awa Odori (Mobara Tanabata Matsuri) もばら阿波おどり (Mobara, Chiba)
・When: July 28, 2018, 6:00 pm–8:10 pm (CANCELED DUE TO THE TYPHOON)
・Where: Near JR Mobara Station (JR Sotobo Line), East Exit, Sun City shopping street.
・About: Part of the Mobara Tanabata Matsuri to be held on July 27–29, 2018. On July 28, an opening ceremony will be held at 5:30 pm, and Awa Odori dancing will start at 6 pm. Eleven troupes will appear along a circular route starting and ending at Sogo Shimin Center.
・Video:
・Photos: http://www.mobara-tanabata.com/picture/awaodori2016.html
・Official website: http://www.mobara-tanabata.com/bbs2.html

Koganei Awa Odori 小金井阿波おどり (Koganei, Tokyo)
・When: July 28–29, 2018, 6:00 pm–9:00 pm (JULY 28 CANCELED DUE TO THE TYPHOON)
・Where: Near JR Musashi Koganei Station, North and South Exits.
・About: There are multiple dance venues near the station, making it less crowded at each one. About 24 troupes will appear each evening.
・Video: https://youtu.be/bEfUbibz9AA
・Photos: http://photoguide.jp/pix/thumbnails.php?album=932
・Official website: http://www.koganei-awaodori.jp/

Kanagawa Yamato Awa Odori 神奈川大和阿波おどり (Yamato, Kanagawa)
・When: July 28–29, 2018, 4:30 pm–8:30 pm (JULY 28 CANCELED DUE TO THE TYPHOON)
・Where: Near Yamato Station (Odakyu Enoshima Line and Sotetsu Line)
・About: About 16 troupes. On July 15, they also hold an indoor performance (“Zomeki Yamato”) in Yamato Geijutsu Bunka Hall (¥1,500 paid seating).
・Video: https://youtu.be/RFGHs7gD3jM
・Photos: http://photoguide.jp/pix/thumbnails.php?album=335
・Official website: http://awaodori.cside6.com/

–AUGUST 2018 (8月)–

Kojiya Awa Odori 糀谷阿波おどり (Ota-ku, Tokyo)
・When: Aug. 3–4, 2018, 7:00 pm–9:00 pm
・Where: Near Kojiya Station (Keikyu Airport Line).
・About: Two-day festival long a local shopping street with 10 dance troupes and 600 participants.
・Video:
・Photos:
・Official website: https://www.facebook.com/%E7%B3%80%E8%B0%B7%E5%95%86%E5%BA%97%E8%A1%97-%E9%98%BF%E6%B3%A2%E8%B8%8A%E3%82%8A-1390477227662992/
https://ota-tokyo.com/ja/%e7%b3%80%e8%b0%b7%e9%98%bf%e6%b3%a2%e3%81%8a%e3%81%a9%e3%82%8a/

Higashi-Rinkan Awa Odori (Summer Wanival) 東林間サマーわぁ!ニバル (Sagamihara, Kanagawa)
・When: Aug. 4–5, 2018, 5:20 pm–8:30 pm
・Where: Near Higashi-Rinkan Station (Odakyu Enoshima Line, local train only, do not ride any express trains).
・About: Quite a big event with over 20 troupes on each day. Local troupes from Sagamihara are Higashi-Rinkan-ren, Hotaru-ren, Goraku-ren, Aun-ren, Hiyori-ren, and Issui-ren.
・Video: https://youtu.be/Bmv5ppFXt4s
・Photos: https://higashirinkan-awaodori.com/2017album/
・Official website: https://higashirinkan-awaodori.com/

Naka-Meguro Summer Festival 中目黒夏まつり (Meguro-ku, Tokyo)
・When: Aug. 4, 2018, 6:00 pm–8:30 pm
・Where: Near Naka-Meguro Station (Tokyu Toyoko Line and Hibiya Line).
・About: It’s a two-day summer festival. The first day (Aug. 4) features Awa Odori (27 troupes) and the second day (Aug. 5) has yosakoi dancers (33 groups). At 5:30 pm on both days, there’s an opening ceremony. They dance along the shopping streets next to the train/subway station, but the streets are narrow and it’s mostly standing room only. Normal people also walk along the streets so it can be hard to get good photos. But you get to see the dancers and musicians up close.
・Video: https://youtu.be/V6TnqV9OWww
・Photos:
・Official website: http://www.e-nakameguro.com/

Sayama Irumagawa Tanabata Matsuri (Awa Odori) 狭山入間川七夕まつり (Sayama, Saitama)
・When: Aug. 5, 2018, 4:30 pm–6:30 pm??
・Where: Near Sayama-shi Station (Seibu Shinjuku Line).
・About: Two-day summer festival featuring a variety of performers and events. Fireworks on the first evening and Awa Odori on the second day from 4:30 pm–6:30 pm?? Eight Awa Odori troupes will dance.
・Video: https://youtu.be/4B9EeVNifyU
・Photos: http://www.city.sayama.saitama.jp/manabu/photonews/tanabata/2017/0806.html
・Official website: http://www.city.sayama.saitama.jp/manabu/mainevent/tanabata/
https://www.facebook.com/tanabata.sayama

Kumegawa Awa Odori 東村山久米川阿波おどり (Higashi-Murayama, Tokyo)
・When: Aug. 18, 2018, 6:00 pm–8:30 pm
・Where: Near Kumegawa Station (Seibu Shinjuku Line) and Yasaka Station (Seibu Tamako Line), Wing-dori, Shopping Promenade Yasaka.
・About: Local troupe is Kumegawa-ren.
・Video:
・Photos: http://kumegawaawa.wixsite.com/kumegawaawaodori/phot
・Official website: http://kumegawaawa.wixsite.com/kumegawaawaodori
https://ja-jp.facebook.com/KumegawaAwaodori

Mitaka Awa Odori 三鷹阿波おどり (Mitaka, Tokyo)
・When: Aug. 18–19, 2018, 6:00pm–9:00 pm
・Where: Near JR Mitaka Station, South Exit (JR Chuo Line).
・About: About 26 troupes parading on a straight road along the shopping street. Many troupes are from Mitaka like Inokashira-ren, Mitaka-ren, and Rhythm-ren.
・Video: https://youtu.be/dlc_WrHMK0g
・Photos: http://photoguide.jp/pix/thumbnails.php?album=763
・Official website: http://awaodori.mitaka.ne.jp/

Shimo-Kitazawa Ichibangai Awa Odori 下北沢一番街 阿波おどり (Setagaya-ku, Tokyo)
・When: Aug. 18-19, 2018, 6:30 pm–8:30 pm
・Where: Near Shimo-Kitazawa Station, North Exit (Inokashira Line and Odakyu Line).
・About: Held along the Ichibangai shopping streets.There will be around 12 dance troupes on both nights, including Hifumi-ren and Yattoko-ren which are from Shimo-Kitazawa. One troupe will be for anyone to join in and dance (tobi-iri-ren). From 8:10 pm to 8:30 pm, each troupe will give a dance performance at designated places. Note that the streets are quite narrow with little room to sit. It’s basically a standing room-only festival.
・Video:
・Photos:
・Official website: http://www.shimokita1ban.com/en/awaodori

Ontake Furusato Odori おんたけ ふるさと踊り (Ota-ku, Tokyo)
・When: Aug. 19, 2018, 6:00 pm–8:30 pm
・Where: Near Ontakesan Station (Tokyu Ikegami Line).
・About: A two-day dance festival with a Bon dance held on the first night (Aug. 18) and Awa Odori on the second night. There will be around five Awa Odori dance troupes. Most are quite famous in Tokyo. The local troupes includes Kusunoki-ren.
・Video:
・Photos:
・Official website: https://otakushoren.com/cp-bin/wp/events/10501

Koenji Awa Odori (Koenji, Suginami-ku, Tokyo)
・When: Aug. 25–26, 2018, 5:00 pm–8:00 pm
・Where: Near JR Koenji Station (JR Chuo Line) and Shin-Koenji Station (Marunouchi subway line).
・About: Tokyo’s biggest Awa Odori with over 50 dance troupes each evening and a million spectators over the two days. There are multiple venues or roads where they dance. The larger roads are very crowded, but the narrower parade paths are less crowded. Go early if you want to sit in a good spot.
・Video: https://youtu.be/SEBnCpKYk0Y
・Photos: http://photoguide.jp/pix/thumbnails.php?album=337
・Official website: http://koenji-awaodori.com/

Minami-Koshigaya Awa Odori 南越谷阿波おどり (Koshigaya, Saitama)
・When: Aug. 25–26, 2018, 4:20 pm–9:00 pm
・Where: Near JR Minami-Koshigaya Station (JR Musashino Line) and Shin-Koshigaya Station (Tobu Skytree Line).
・About: Big Awa Odori with about 80 troupes over the festival period. Four dance venues including a stage and indoor hall. Festival eve on Aug. 24 at 7:00 pm–9:00 pm at the Koshigaya Community Center. They will also have dancers performing inside the Koshigaya Community Center on both days.
・Video: https://youtu.be/upPtDNPwkuI
・Photos: http://photoguide.jp/pix/thumbnails.php?album=762
・Official website: http://www.minamikoshigaya-awaodori.jp/

Otsuka Awa Odori 東京大塚阿波おどり (Toshima-ku, Tokyo)
・When: Aug. 25, 2018, 4:30 pm–8:30 pm
・Where: Near JR Otsuka Station, South Exit (Yamanote Line), Shin-Otsuka Station (Marunouchi Line).
・About: For the festival eve the night before on Aug. 24 at 5:00 pm, dances will be performed in the Minami Otsuka Hall. This is one of the samller and less crowded Awa Odori in Tokyo. Probably because it is held at the same time as much bigger Awa Odori.
・Video: https://youtu.be/4nbHIEBr2IA
・Photos: http://photoguide.jp/pix/thumbnails.php?album=764
・Official website: http://ohtsuka-awaodori.com/

–SEPTEMBER 2018 (9月)–

Inagi Awa Odori 稲城阿波おどり大会 (Inagi, Tokyo)
・When: Sept. 1, 2018, 6:00 pm–8:00 pm
・Where: Near Keio Yomiuriland Station (Keio Line).
・About: Dance venues are in front of the train station and nearby streets. Not crowded at all.
・Video: https://youtu.be/_7Snv0SCuVU
・Photos: http://photoguide.jp/pix/thumbnails.php?album=702
・Official website: https://www.facebook.com/inagiawaodori/

Kita-Urawa Awa Odori 北浦和阿波おどり (Saitama city, Saitama)
・When: Sept. 1, 2018, 5:00 pm–8:30 pm
・Where: Near Kita-Urawa Station (JR Keihin-Tohoku Line).
・About: This is the finale of the local Urawa Matsuri festival held since July. A music parade first starts at 4 pm before the Awa Odori at 5 pm. About 16 troupes appear.
・Video: https://youtu.be/hixFsWqpa9E
・Photos: http://photoguide.jp/pix/thumbnails.php?album=767
・Official website: http://www.kitaurawa.or.jp/

Nakamurabashi Awa Odori 中村橋阿波おどり (Nerima-ku, Tokyo)
・When: Sept. 2, 2018, 5:30 pm–8:30 pm
・Where: Near Nakamurabashi Station (Seibu-Ikebukuro Line).
・About: Held annually on the first weekend of Sept. There will be 12 dance troupes and 600 people in the parade. On the festival eve on Sat. the day before, they will have entertainment and flea market from 2:30 pm to 8:30 pm.
・Video: https://youtu.be/woBn4SoSsmk
・Photos: http://photoguide.jp/pix/thumbnails.php?album=768
・Official website: http://nyanpy.com/

Hatsudai Awa Odori 初台阿波踊り (Hatsudai, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo)
・When: Held annually on Sept. 22–23, starts at 6:45 pm and ends at around 9:00 pm.
・Where: Near Hatsudai Station (Keio Line).
・About: Dance route is about 1 km long, starting near Hatsudai Station. One long route. Started in 1970 to join the Yoyogi Hachimangu Shrine’s main festival and revitalize the shopping street. Local troupes include Hatsuda-ren, Chibikko-ren, Fuji-ren, Yiko-ren, and Koburyu-ren.
・Video:
・Photos: http://hatsudai.ne.jp/awaodori/photo/index.html
・Official website: http://hatsudai.ne.jp/awaodori/
https://www.facebook.com/hatsudaiawaodori

–OCTOBER 2018 (10月)–

Kawasaki Awa Odori かわさき阿波おどり (Kawasaki, Kanagawa)
・When: Oct. 6, 2018, 4:00 pm–8:00 pm
・Where: Near Keikyu Kawasaki Station (Keihin Kyuko) and JR Kawasaki Station (JR Keihin Tohoku and Tokaido Lines).
・About: Started in 1986. About 15 troupes (over 600 performers) will dance.
・Video:
・Photos: http://www.kawasaki-awaodori.com/memory.html
・Official website: http://www.kawasaki-awaodori.com/

Misato Awa Odori (Japan Festa Autumn) みさと阿波おどり (Misato, Saitama)
・When: Oct. 28, 2018, 10:00 am–3:00 pm
・Where: Misato Park (From JR Kanamachi Station on the JR Joban Line, take the bus bound for Misato Station or Misato Chuo Station and get off at Takasu-chiku Bunka Center Iriguchi. Or from Misato Station on the JR Musashino Line or Misato Chuo Station on the Tsukuba Express Line, take a bus bound for Kanamachi Station Minami-guchi and get off at Misato Koen-mae.)
・About: Festival featuring not only awa odori, but also taiko drummers. Misato Park is on the border with Katsushika Ward’s Mizumoto Park in Tokyo.
・Video:
・Photos:
・Official website: http://www.geocities.jp/satoplco/awa/awa.htm

–AWA ODORI ESSENTIAL VOCABULARY (Illustrated)–

Awa Odori (阿波おどり)

Awa Odori (阿波おどり or 阿波踊り) – Dance of Awa Province. “Awa” is the old name for present-day Tokushima Prefecture where the dance originated. “Awa” does not mean “bubble” (泡) in this case. “Odori” means “dance.” It is based on the bon dance to welcome returning spirits of the deceased.

ren (連)

ren (連) – Awa Odori dance troupe. The troupe’s name is tagged with “ren” at the end. A few troupes use a different tag instead of “ren.” A troupe consists of child, male, and female dancers and musicians. At the head is a pole lantern bearing the name of the troupe. “Jimoto-ren” (地元連) is a troupe from the place where the Awa Odori is held. And “shotai-ren” (招待連) are invited troupes.

Niwaka-ren (にわか連) – Dance troupe for anyone to freely join in and dance (tobi-iri sanka). No special costume required. Easy to spot since they wear no uniform and look disorganized. Some Awa Odori festivals have a Niwaka-ren. Or sometimes at the end, anyone can join in with the dance troupe.

embujo (演舞場)

embujo (演舞場) – Dance venue where the troupes dance for spectators. This is usually a section of a street or large avenue. There may be bleachers or just a sidewalk where people can sit and watch. The bleachers are for paid seating. The venue may also be called “kaijo” (会場) which is a generic term for venue and may be numbered.

Nagashi-odori (dance parade)

nagashi-odori (流し踊り) – Dancers dance while moving down the road in a parade.

kumi-odori (組踊り)

kumi-odori (組踊り) – Instead of moving in a parade, the dancers perform in one location for a prolonged period around 15-20 min. It could be a special area along the parade route or a stage. Often performed as the final number.

otoko odori (男踊り)

otoko odori (男踊り)

otoko odori (男踊り) – Men’s dance where they crouch low with the knees pointed outward. They usually wear a happi coat, shorts, and tabi socks. They may also dance with an uchiwa fan or paper lantern. Children and women can also dance the men’s dance. In the troupe, otoko odori usually appears before the onna odori.

onna odori (女踊り)

onna odori (女踊り) – Women’s dance. They wear a yukata, crescent-shaped hat, and wooden geta clogs. They dance in various formations while hopping on their clogs. Elegant-looking and the troupe’s main members.

aho (阿保)

aho (阿保) – Fool. Awa Odori dancers shake their hands above their heads. This is happens to be the Japanese gesture to indicate one’s idiocy. So it is nicknamed the “fool’s dance.”

“Yatto-sa! Yatto-sa!” (ヤットサーヤットサー)

“Yatto-sa! Yatto-sa!” (ヤットサーヤットサー) – “Yatto-sa, yatto-yatto, yoisa, yatto-sa!” A dance cheer often shouted by dancers. It means, “Long time no see! How have you been?” This is not normal Japanese.

yakko odori (やっこ踊り)

yakko odori (やっこ踊り) – Kite dance with an acrobatic dancer miming as a kite controlled by a kite handler with an invisible string. Humorous and dramatic especially when the kite does cartwheels and somersaults. Only a few troupes perform the kite dance.

kane (鉦)

fue (笛)

shamisen (三味線)

taiko (太鼓)

narimono (鳴り物) – Musicians. They appear at the end of the dance troupe and consist of flute players (fue 笛), shamisen players (三味線), bell player (kane 鉦) who sets the rhythm, and taiko drummers at the end.

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