Ome Taisai Festival

Video link: http://youtu.be/rSWwkn6TkLg

Ome Taisai is a float festival held annually on May 2 and 3 in Ome, Tokyo, Japan. Twelve ornate wooden floats are pulled along the main street near JR Ome Station (about 1 hour train ride from Shinjuku Station). Each float has festival musicians and a comical dancer. This video shows all 12 floats and 9 performance stages. Shot on May 3, 2014, the main festival day. About 150,000 people come to see Ome’s largest festival. The float festival has been held since 1872.

Since Tokyo has mostly mikoshi portable shrine festivals, I really enjoyed this float festival as a change of pace. Ome Taisai is held by Sumiyoshi Shrine in Ome, the city’s main guardian shrine. Ome is a former post town along the Ome Kaido Road going from Shinjuku, Tokyo to Kofu, Yamanashi Prefecture.

On May 2, each float is paraded around their own neighborhood. The main day is May 3 when all the floats are pulled along the Kyu-Ome Kaido main road parallel to Ome Station from 9 am to 7:30 pm. The floats are pulled by parishioners led by kids dressed as tekomai guardians. The floats also stop and perform together on the street. In the late afternoon, 6 or 7 floats gather to perform together. The street also has nine stationary platforms where more musicians and dancers perform.

Ome Taisai is a festival of Sumiyoshi Shrine established in 1369. In 1513, parishioners from five neighborhoods (Sumie-cho, Honcho, Nakacho, Kamicho, and Morishita-cho 住江町、本町、仲町、上町、森下町) held a spring festival to celebrate their renovation of the shrine’s Haiden hall. This was the beginning of the Ome Taisai. In 1872, the five neighborhoods started to pull ornate floats during the festival. After World War II, seven more floats representing other neighborhoods joined the festival. Most of the current floats were built relatively recently.

The five original floats were much taller with three tiers topped with a life-size doll. Overhead power lines installed in 1911 forced the floats to downsize and remove the mannequins. Those five dolls are instead displayed in their respective neighborhoods during the festival.

Ome Taisai Floats
Amagase-cho 天ヶ瀬町
Hinatawada 日向和田
*Honcho 本町
*Kamicho 上町
Katsunuma-cho 勝沼町
*Morishita-cho 森下町
Nishiwake-cho 西分町
*Nakacho 仲町
Oyana-cho 大柳町
*Sumie-cho (Miyamoto) 住江町
Takinoue-cho 滝ノ上町
Urajuku-cho 裏宿町
*Festival founding floats.

White Heron Dance in Asakusa 2014

Video link: http://youtu.be/-_DqsWhH-aM
The White Heron Dance (Shirasagi-no-Mai) was very elegant in front of Sensoji temple in Asakusa, Tokyo on April 13, 2014. I caught them walking through Nakamise leading to Sensoji temple. This video shows the entire dance in front of the temple performed at 3:30 pm. I also saw them perform on the roof of Matsuya Dept. Store in Asakusa at 2:30 pm. The Shirasagi-no-Mai White Heron Dance is held in Asakusa on the second Sunday of April, mid-May for the Sanja Matsuri, and on Nov. 3.

The dance originated at Yasaka Shrine in Kyoto about 1,000 years ago to ward off epidemics and pray for good harvests. The local Asakusa tourist association resurrected the dance in 1968. A picture scroll showed that it was performed in 1652 at Sensoji temple.

More photos here.

Cherry blossoms in Tokyo 2014

Cherry blossoms at the Imperial Palace’s Chidorigafuchi moat was superb.

chidorigafuchi

chidorigafuchi

chidorigafuchi

Also, for the first time, they allowed the public to enter the Imperial Palace to view cherry blossoms along a short path called Inui-dori during April 4-8, 2014. An insane number of people showed up. On the first day April 4, 2014, over 55,000 people came to see the Inui-dori sakura. Although it was open until 3 pm, they closed it by 1:30 pm due to the huge crowds.

Visitors went through a body search at the Imperial Palace.

inui

I couldn’t get in when I arrived at 2 pm. Too late. People waited for 2-3 hours to get in.

Click on the images above to see more images.

 

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