Awa Odori 2019 schedule in Tokyo-Kanto

Compiled by Philbert Ono, Updated: June 2, 2019

This is the 2019 schedule of Awa Odori dance festivals to be held in the Tokyo/Kanto area (Tokyo, Saitama, Kanagawa, and Chiba Prefectures) from June to October 2019. 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 information (usually dates) to be announced. 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. 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, 2019.

東京・関東地方の阿波おどりの2019年の日程(英語)

–JUNE 2019 (6月)–

None that I know of.

–JULY 2019 (7月)–

Koiwa Awa Odori 小岩阿波おどり (Katsushika-ku, Tokyo)
・When: July 6, 2019, 6:15 pm–8:15 pm
・Where: Near JR Koiwa Station, North Exit (JR Sobu Line).
・About: New awa odori that started in 2014. 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 ??, 2019, 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 It has been replaced by this Oedo Niiza Festival in 2015.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 26–27, 2019, 7:00 pm–9:00 pm (Children’s dance on 26th from 6 pm to 7 pm)
・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: https://photoguide.jp/pix/thumbnails.php?album=698
・Official website: http://www.kagurazaka.in/

Kasei Awa Odori かせい阿波おどり (Nakano-ku, Tokyo)
・When: July 27 (4:00 pm–6:00 pm) and 28 (5:00 pm–8:00 pm), 2019
・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 27, 2019, 6:00 pm
・Where: Near Tobu Nerima Station, South Exit (Tobu-Tojo Line).
・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: https://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, 2019, 6:00 pm–8:10 pm
・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 26–28, 2019. 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 27–28, 2019, 6:00 pm–9:00 pm
・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: https://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 27–28, 2019, 4:30 pm–8:30 pm
・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: https://photoguide.jp/pix/thumbnails.php?album=335
・Official website: http://awaodori.cside6.com/

Hibiya Expo Oedo Matsuri 日比谷大江戸まつり (Tokyo)
・When: July 26–28, 2019, 10:00 am–8:00 pm (till 6:00 pm on 28th)
・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/2019/hibiyaoed-matsuri-2019/

–AUGUST 2019 (8月)–

Kojiya Awa Odori 糀谷阿波おどり (Ota-ku, Tokyo)
・When: Aug. ??, 2019, 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. 3–4, 2019, 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. ??, 2019, 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. 3, 2019, 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. ??, 2019, 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. 17–18, 2019, 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: https://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. 17-18, 2019, 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. ??, 2019, 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/category/events

Koenji Awa Odori (Koenji, Suginami-ku, Tokyo)
・When: Aug. 24–25, 2019, 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: https://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. 24–25, 2019, 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: https://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. ??, 2019, 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: https://photoguide.jp/pix/thumbnails.php?album=764
・Official website: http://ohtsuka-awaodori.com/

–SEPTEMBER 2019 (9月)–

Inagi Awa Odori 稲城阿波おどり大会 (Inagi, Tokyo)
・When: Sept. ??, 2019, 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: https://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. ??, 2019, 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: https://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. ??, 2019, 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: https://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 2019 (10月)–

Kawasaki Awa Odori かわさき阿波おどり (Kawasaki, Kanagawa)
・When: Oct. ??, 2019, 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. ??, 2019, 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:

–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.

Kameido Tenjin Shrine Wisteria

Kameido Tenjin Shrine (亀戸天神社) is one of Tokyo’s most beloved Shinto shrines. It has pretty flowers, it’s photogenic, it’s historical, and it retains a local ambience.

From late April to early May, the shrine grounds will be colored purple during its annual Wisteria Festival (Fuji Matsuri 藤まつり). The shrine is central Tokyo’s most famous spot for wisteria, and people crowd the 15 wisteria trellises accenting the pond and two vermillion arch bridges. The flowers are daintily fragrant, and the vines spiral upward in fantastic shapes. Azaleas also bloom at the same time, making it very colorful in a compact place.

If you don’t have time during the day, come in the evening to see the wisteria lit up from sunset to midnight. The purple flowers are beautiful against the twilight or night sky. The crowd is also smaller in the evenings.

Wisteria trellises and Tokyo Skytree in the evening.
Tokyo Skytree and Kameido Tenjin wisteria in the evening.
On the flat Hirabashi Bridge, people admire wisteria in the evening.

The shrine is in eastern Tokyo in a Koto Ward neighborhood called Kameido, not far from Akihabara (8 min. by train) and Tokyo Skytree. It has made Kameido synonymous with wisteria since the Edo Period (17th–19th centuries). Hiroshige’s 19th-century woodblock print of Kameido Tenjin’s wisteria made it especially famous. The wisteria and shrine buildings today date from after World War II since the shrine and much of Kameido were destroyed by firebombings in 1945.

Kameido Tenjin Shrine is one of the thousands of Tenmangu/Tenjin shrines in Japan that worship the famous Japanese scholar Sugawara Michizane (845–903) deified as Tenjin, the god of learning and scholarship. Many students pray here especially during January to February to pass school entrance exams or to do well in school.

Japan’s most venerated Tenmangu shrine is Dazaifu Tenmangu built in the 10th century over the spot where Michizane was buried in Fukuoka Prefecture in Kyushu. In the mid-17th century, Dazaifu Tenmangu’s priest (Michizane descendant) looked around eastern Japan to establish a branch shrine. He came upon Kameido village where there was a small Tenjin shrine. He decided to use it to worship a statue of Michizane carved from a sacred plum tree. Later, Shogun Tokugawa Ietsuna (1641–1680) donated the land for this shrine that became Kameido Tenjin Shrine.

Entrance to Kameido Tenjin Shrine during the Wisteria Festival.
The first arch bridge (Otoko-bashi) near the main torii.
Wisteria and azaleas on the way to the shrine’s Haiden main worship hall.
Kameido Tenjin Shrine’s Haiden main worship hall.

By 1662, the shrine’s basic layout and buildings took shape based on Dazaifu Tenmangu in Fukuoka. We can see a red torii gate, Shinji Pond, two taikobashi arch bridges, and a flat bridge. The first arch bridge (named “Otoko-bashi“) represents the past, the flat bridge (“Hirabashi“) is the present, and the second arch bridge (“Onna-bashi“) is the future. Cross all three bridges to purify your heart before praying at the Haiden main shrine hall. The shrine grounds also has many monuments, a few smaller shrines, and plum trees.

Kameido Tenjin Shrine was initially named Higashi Saifu Tenmangu or Kameido Saifu Tenmangu before it was finally renamed “Kameido Tenjinsha” (commonly called “Kameido Tenjin”) in 1936. It is the only Tenmangu shrine established as a direct branch of Dazaifu Tenmangu. The other Tenmangu/Tenjin shrines were established independently.

Red-ear slider turtles at Kameido Tenjin Shrine.

The Kameido (“Turtle Well”) district was so named because it used to be a turtle-shaped island (Kamejima) and there was a well in a popular plum garden. By coincidence or intention, Kameido Tenjin’s Shinji Pond teems with turtles. There is a modern-day custom for worshippers whose prayers at the shrine came true to release a turtle into the shrine’s pond as a gesture of appreciation. Most of them bring red-ear slider turtles which are small and cute as pets, but are invasive species. They grow to a large size and crowd out native turtles. The shrine does not condone this custom, so don’t bring a turtle to the shrine after passing your school exam.

Plum blossoms at Kameido Tenjin Shrine.
Kameido Tenjin Shrine worship hall flanked by plum blossoms.

Besides wisteria, Kameido Tenjin is noted for plum blossoms from early February to early March. Plum blossoms are associated with Sugawara Michizane because he once wrote a poem for his beloved plum blossoms that flew through the air to follow him when he was exiled to Dazaifu, Fukuoka. Kameido Tenjin’s crest is also the plum blossom.

On March 25, Kameido Tenjin Shrine holds its annual Taimatsu Torch Festival to mark the anniversary of Michizane’s death on March 25. People carry a lit torch around the shrine along with priets.

In late October to November, the shrine holds a chrysanthemum festival displaying exotic species and sculptures of chrysanthemum.

Chrysanthemum festival at Kameido Tenjin Shrine.

The shrine grounds is open 24/7 and admission is free, but the main shrine hall is open only from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. With the pond, vermillion arch bridges, red torii, and Tokyo Skytree in the background, great flower pictures are waiting to be taken at Kameido Tenjin Shrine.

Kameido Tenjin is a 15-minute walk from JR Kameido Station‘s North Exit (JR Sobu Line or Tobu Kameido Line). Local shops and restaurants are along the way. Address: Kameido 3-6-1, Koto-ku, Tokyo

Via magazine cover photo by Philbert Ono (Spring 2019 issue).

More Kameido Tenjin Shrine wisteria photos here.

*This article is an expanded version of my article published in via magazine (Spring 2019 issue), the onboard magazine of the Airport Limousine bus in the Tokyo area and lobby magazine at all branches of Mizuho Bank in Japan.

Kyoto by the Sea: Amanohashidate

Amanohashidate from Kasamatsu Park, Kyoto.

“Kyoto by the Sea” (海の京都) is a tourism catch phrase for northern Kyoto Prefecture that mainly faces the Sea of Japan. This region is most famous for Amanohashidate (天橋立), Ine fishing boat houses, Tango Peninsula, Tango chirimen silk fabrics, Kurotani washi paper, Maizuru navy town, and the castle town of Fukuchiyama.

For a few days in October 2018, I visited most of the major sights in northern Kyoto Prefecture and really enjoyed Kyoto away from the city of Kyoto.

Above is a map of Kyoto Prefecture’s municipalities. Shaded in aqua are the seven municipalities in northern Kyoto Prefecture that banded together under the “Kyoto by the Sea” theme: Ayabe, Fukuchiyama, Ine, Kyotango, Maizuru, Miyazu, and Yosano (綾部市、福知山市、伊根町、京丹後市、舞鶴市、宮津市、与謝野町). The city of Kyoto is in yellow.

Northern Kyoto is about 2 hours north of JR Osaka Station and Kyoto Station via express train. Main gateway stations are Fukuchiyama and Amanohashidate Stations. The private Kyoto Tango Railway is the main train network in Kyoto by the Sea.

Kyoto Prefecture also has at least two other tourism PR themes: “Kyoto in the Forests” (森の京都) and “Kyoto Infused with Tea” (お茶の京都). They are outside the tourist-crowded city of Kyoto. The areas outside Kyoto city have a tougher time to attract tourists since most tourists just stay in the city of Kyoto.

So it’s a good strategy to promote tourism collectively in each region outside Kyoto city. For multiple municipalities to band together to promote their region under a central theme is still kind of rare in Japan. Hope they will be able to attract more tourists and relieve the crowds in Kyoto city.

Amanohashidate, Bridge from Heaven

Amanohashidate (天橋立) is a narrow sandbar across the ocean from mainland Japan (city of Miyazu) to Tango Peninsula. It’s about 3.6 km long, totally flat, and you can cross it on foot or by bicycle (rentals available) on a dirt road in the middle. The road is lined with thousands of Japanese pine trees and closed to vehicular traffic. The above view is from the northern end (Kasamatsu Park). Location: https://goo.gl/maps/Ag5g2tBprcQ2

Near the entrance to Amanohashidate, this welcome sign with “One of the three famous beauty spots of Japan” has been here for decades.

Amanohashidate has been one of Japan’s most famous tourist sights for centuries, well known as one of the Nihon Sankei (日本三景) or “Japan’s Scenic Trio.” (There’s no official English translation of Nihon Sankei, but I like to call it “Scenic Trio” in English. I like the word “trio” because it implies that they belong to a group of three. I don’t like what English Wikipedia calls it: “Three Views of Japan.”)

The other two Scenic Trio sites are Miyajima (vermillion torii and shrine on the ocean) in Hiroshima Prefecture and Matsushima (pine tree islands) near Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture.

So who decided that these three scenic sights were Japan’s Best Three? And Japan has so many of these “Best Three” or “Big Three” designations and Nihon Sankei is the most famous of them all. But why is it always “three?”

According to Japanese Wikipedia, Nihon Sankei originated in 1643 by Hayashi Gaho (aka Hayashi Shunsai), a Japanese Neo-Confucian scholar who wrote a book mentioning these three sights. The expression “Nihon Sankei” was later coined in 1689 by another Japanese Neo-Confucianist scholar, Kaibara Ekken in his travel diary. So “Nihon Sankei” goes way back to the 17th century.

It’s really amazing that it has stuck throughout these centuries even with Mt. Fuji excluded. With Japan having so many places of beauty, it would be nearly impossible for anyone today to unilaterally declare any three sights as the “Best Three.”

To the question of why the best always comes in threes, the answer seems to be more complicated. It seems the Japanese have had favorite numbers for many centuries. Many odd numbers are favored including one, three, five, and seven. This might sound familiar when you think about haiku and tanka poetry syllables, and the 7-5-3 (shichi-go-san) coming-of-age celebration for kids. But the number “three” for “Best Three” or “Big Three” has also stuck for centuries and still today.

Amanohashidate as seen on the southern end. In the distance is Tango Peninsula up north.

The thing about Amanohashidate is that it looks very different from different lookout points. The most popular spots to view Amanohashidate are on the hilltop on the southern and northern ends. If you have time, I highly recommend that you see it from both the southern end and northern ends. Which means you should rent a bicycle and ride across Amanohashidate which I also highly recommend.

As seen from the southern end above, the left side is the west side with an enclosed, but connected ocean named Asoumi Sea. The right side is the east side with white-sand beaches facing the open ocean. Ships can still go through both sides of the sandbar through a narrow strait on the southern end.

On the lower right of the sandbar, notice the finger of sand extending into the ocean. This finger keeps growing as the northern sand erodes and drifts south to the finger. So every few years, they have to remove the excess sand. (Notice the power shovel and dump truck working on it.) Otherwise, this little sand spit will become another sandbar across the ocean, impeding local shipping.

The hilltop on the southern end has a small amusement park called Amanohashidate Viewland easily accessible via chair lift or cable car, and a short walk from Amanohashidate Station.
Map: https://goo.gl/maps/yNhxjwK2ocz

Amanohashidate manhole is based on the view from the southern end.
Chair lift and cable car station for Amanohashidate Viewland. Short walk from Amanohashidate Station.
Chair lift and monorail car for Amanohashidate Viewland. Taking the chair lift is faster than the monorail car.
Small ferris wheel at Amanohashidate Viewland.
Amanohashidate lookout points have platforms where you supposed to view the sandbar upside down.
Flying dragon at Amanohashidate.

On the southern end here, Amanohashidate upside down does look like a flying dragon (hiryu 飛竜). That’s the dragon’s head in the front and the slim tail in the back. When you see it upside down, the sandbar/dragon is in the sky right?

Amanohashidate also has these “Circle of Wisdom” everywhere. To gain wisdom, you supposed to crawl or look through it three times or buy and throw three small clay dishes through it. Tourist gimmick.

Chionji Temple’s Sanmon Gate, National Important Cultural Property.

Before crossing Amanohashidate, stop by Chionji Temple (智恩寺) next to Amanohashidate’s southern entrance. With the imposing Sanmon Gate, you can’t miss it. Belonging to the Rinzai Zen Sect, Chionji worships the Manjushri bodhisattva (Monju Bosatsu) for wisdom and academic abilities. Many students pray here. The temple is not affiliated with Chion-in Temple in Kyoto city.

Chionji Temple’s Tahoto Pagoda.

The temple’s beautiful Tahoto Pagoda with a round upper story and square lower story. It contains objects of worship.

Chionji’s main temple hall, Monjudo. 文殊堂

Chionji location: https://goo.gl/maps/Anjk19rRLzT2
Official site: http://www.monjudo-chionji.jp/

Next to Chionji Temple is this Circle of Wisdom Lantern (智恵の輪 灯籠). No longer a lantern to guide ships, but this is the original Circle of Wisdom in Amanohashidate that has been copied everywhere. Across the water is the Amanohashidate sandbar.

On the southern end, this bridge to Amanohashidate rotates quite often to allow boats to pass.
If you have time, rent a bicycle and cycle across Amanohashidate to the northern end. I rented a bicycle in front of Amanohashidate Station.
Cycling on Amanohashidate through thousands of Japanese pine trees.
Wedded pine trees (夫婦松) on Amanohashidate.

It takes about 15 min. to cross Amanohashidate by bicycle without stopping. But there are a number of monuments, a shrine, pine trees, and sandy beaches to photograph along the way. So it took me 30-40 min. to cross. Amanohashidate has wedded pine trees (夫婦松) and other fantastically-shaped pine trees and commemorative pine trees (planted by so-and-so emperor, etc.).

West side of Amanohashidate with no beaches.
East side of Amanohashidate with beaches.
Moto-Ise Kono Shrine (photography not allowed beyond this torii).

After crossing the sandbar, visit Moto-Ise Kono Shrine (元伊勢籠神社).

To understand this shrine, you need to know about Ise Grand Shrines (Ise Jingu) in Mie Prefecture, Japan’s most sacred Shinto shrines. They are dedicated to the Sun Goddess Amaterasu (Shinto’s most important goddess and legendary ancestor of the Imperial family) and Toyouke-Omikami (豊受大神), goddess of agriculture.

Before Ise Jingu was established around the 7th century (or earlier), a number of shrines for these two deities were temporarily or permanently established in various locations including this Kono Shrine. These pre-Ise Jingu shrines are prefixed with “Moto-Ise.” Moto-Ise Kono Shrine worships five gods and one of them is Toyouke-Omikami (豊受大神), the same goddess of agriculture worshiped in Ise.

The shrine is open 7:00 am to 5:00 pm. Free admission. The shrine is near the chair lift and cable car station (Fuchu Station) for the hilltop Kasamatsu Park (see below) for fine views of Amanohashidate from the northern end.

Address
Moto-Ise Kono Shrine
430 Ogaki, Miyazu-shi, Kyoto
〒629-2242 京都府宮津市字大垣430
Phone: 0772-27-0006
http://www.motoise.jp/
Map: https://goo.gl/maps/cDrgez7Zar32

Directions to Moto-Ise Shrine
By bus: At Amanohashidate Station (Kyoto Tango Railway), take a local bus bound for Ine, Kamanyu, or Kyogamisaki ([伊根・亀島] [蒲入] [経ヶ岬]) and get off at Jinja-mae stop. Parking also available.

By bicycle: Bicycles can be rented at a souvenir shop In front of Amanohashidate Station and at the entrance of Amanohashidate sandbar. Bicycle across Amanohashidate to the other end. Otherwise, walking from Amanohashidate Station will take at least 45 min.

Fuchu Station, a chair lift/cable car station to go up to Kasamatsu Park on a hill on the northern end of Amanohashidate.
Chair lift to Kasamatsu Park. They keep telling you not to jump off even if you dropped something. They also have a cable car if you’re afraid of heights.
Amanohashidate as seen from the northern end atop Kasamatsu Park.
Look at it upside down.
Upside down from the northern end, Amanohashidate supposed to look like a bridge to heaven.

Amanohashidate is a sandbar created since thousands of years ago by opposing ocean currents carrying sand. But according to Japanese mythology, Amanohashidate was created during the divine Age of Gods (before man appeared). The great creator god Izanagi in Heaven, built a long floating ladder-bridge from Heaven to Earth so he could see his wife (younger sister) the goddess Izanami who was living at Moto-Ise Kono Shrine on Earth. However, in a single night while he was asleep, the bridge collapsed and fell to Earth, where Amanohashidate is today. And so if you view it upside down at Kasamatsu Park, it’s supposed to look like a bridge to/from heaven which is what “Amanohashidate” (天橋立) means.

And so Amanohashidate symbolizes a link between Heaven and Earth and between two lovers. That’s why you may also see heart or love symbols at Amanohashidate.

Address
Kasamatsu Park
Ogaki 75, Miyazu-shi, Kyoto
京都府宮津市大垣75
Phone: 0772-27-0032
English: http://www.amanohashidate.jp/lang/en/spots/kasamatsu-park/

Directions
By bicycle: Bicycles can be rented at a souvenir shop in front of Amanohashidate Station and at the entrance of Amanohashidate sandbar. Bicycle across Amanohashidate to the other end. Otherwise, walking from Amanohashidate Station will take at least 55 min.

By bus: At Amanohashidate Station (Kyoto Tango Railway), take a local bus bound for Ine, Kamanyu, or Kyogamisaki ([伊根・亀島] [蒲入] [経ヶ岬]) and get off at Amanohashidate Cable-shita stop [傘松ケーブル下]. Note that buses do not run that often. Bus schedule in Japanese: https://www.tankai.jp/routebus/

Amanohashidate Cable Car / Chair Lift (Fuchu Station)
Take the chair lift or cable car to go up to Kasamatsu Park.
Round trip: ¥660 for adults, ¥330 for kids (age 6 to 11). Price is the same whether you take the cable car or chair lift.
Hours: 8:00 am–5:30pm (till 4:30 pm or 5:00 pm during Nov.–Mar.)

Kasamatsu Park location: https://goo.gl/maps/QCK8o38yT3n

Heart at Amanohashidate.
Autumn heart at Amanohashidate.
Chair lift down from Kasamatsu Park has nice views.

Amanohashidate is thus the symbol of northern Kyoto and Kyoto by the Sea. It’s less crowded, slow-paced, and very scenic. One of Japan’s Big Three Sceneries, Best Three Picturesque Views, Big Three Sights, or Scenic Trio. Whatever you call it, it’s famous in Japan.

More photos of Amanohashidate: https://photoguide.jp/pix/thumbnails.php?album=920

Transportation to and within Kyoto by the Sea (northern Kyoto)

At Fukuchiyama Station, “Aomatsu” cafe train to Amanohashidate.

Express trains (tokkyu) from JR Osaka Station and JR Kyoto Station take 2 to 3 hours to reach northern Kyoto’s gateway train stations at Fukuchiyama, Miyazu, and Amanohashidate Stations. A few early morning trains go directly from Osaka/Kyoto to Amanohashidate. Other express trains will require you to transfer trains at Fukuchiyama or Miyazu Station to reach Amanohashidate Station. Fukuchiyama Station connects to the private Kyoto Tango Railway and JR San’in Line.

Kyoto Tango Railway (Kyoto Tango Tetsudo 京都丹後鉄道) is the main train network in northern Kyoto. (JR Railpass is not accepted.) Many places of interest are near a Kyoto Tango Railway train station. The trains usually have only one to three cars. From Fukuchiyama, you can get to Maizuru, Miyazu, Amanohashidate, and even Toyooka in Hyogo Prefecture. If you plan to ride Kyoto Tango Railways for a long distance, the one-day train pass is a good deal. Kyoto Tango Railway is operated by Willer Trains, a subsidiary of Willer Express that operates long-distance buses in Japan.

At Fukuchiyama Station, Kyoto Tango Railways operates a special tourist train named “Aomatsu” to Amanohashidate. It’s just one train car with a striking, wood-themed interior design. The floor and seat are made of wood. It has a bar for refreshments and a waitress. It’s a cafe train that serves drinks and light meals. As of this writing, the Aomatsu train runs once every morning (10:17 am) and afternoon (3:17 pm) from Fukuchiyama Station to Amanohashidate Station and requires no reservations nor extra train fare. Non-reserved seating. Aomatsu has a variety of seating arrangements like sofas, counter seating, and table seating (train fare is the same for all seats).
https://trains.willer.co.jp/matsu/aomatsu.html

Picture window counter seats on Aomatsu train.
Cafe-type seats (wooden) with a table in the Aomatsu train.

There’s also the “Kuromatsu” restaurant train that runs from Fukuchiyama to Amanohashidate Station on Fri., Sat., Sun., and national holidays. You can order a full dinner or confections or sake. The train fare includes the meal or drinks and obviously will be much more expensive than regular train fare. https://trains.willer.co.jp/matsu/

Kyoto Tango Railway has another cafe train named “Akamatsu” that runs twice a day (except on Tue. and Wed.) between Nishi-Maizuru and Amanohashidate. But this train requires reservations.
https://trains.willer.co.jp/matsu/akamatsu.html

The Aomatsu, Kuromatsu, and Akamatsu trains were designed by Mitooka Eiji (水戸岡鋭治), a renown designer of many luxury trains especially for JR Kyushu.

Other Kyoto by the Sea posts:

Ine, floating fishing village

Tango Peninsula and Chirimen silk

Amanohashidate (photos)
Chionji Temple
Ine Funaya Boat Houses (photos)
Tango Peninsula (photos)
Tango Chirimen silk fabrics (photos)
Kotohira Jinja Shrine
Chirimen Kaido Road, Yosano
Kurotani Washi Papermaking, Ayabe 
Ayabe Farmhouse Lodge
Fukuchiyama Castle
Japanese Oni Exchange Museum, Fukuchiyama
Maizuru Brick Park
Shoeikan Restaurant, Maizuru
Yoshihara Irie, Maizuru

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