Summer is for Matsuri

Many Shinto shrines hold their annual festival or matsuri over the summer months. Open air stalls selling food, toys and carnival games are setup in the shrine grounds to entertain the crowd. It’s a lively affair reminiscent of the pasar malam (night market) culture in Malaysia.


One of the must-sees is the procession of people carrying the mikoshi around the neighborhood which worships in the shrine. A mikoshi (palanquin) is a portable shrine, sort of like a vehicle that transports the local deity as it travels around.


Groups of people take turns to shoulder the mikoshi. As they travel they sway and move the mikoshi from side to side (believed to “amuse” the deity) accompanied by chants and music.


I attended the Hanazono Shrine Matsuri (which actually was held in late spring but there are plenty of other matsuri in summer) and followed the mikoshi procession around Shinjuku.


There was one part of the course where the procession goes under an overhead bridge. I thought taking shots from directly above the mikoshi would make for an interesting and different angle. So I ran ahead of the procession and this is one of those shots.


I like the contextual contrast of people performing age old traditions in the backdrop of modern Tokyo with it’s sleek buildings and colorful signboards.


Yep, the sun is setting. It was a day long affair. I’m sure there were plenty of sore shoulders there but they soldiered on.


Finally, we made our way back to the shrine. It was extremely crowded and I had no chance of even getting near the front. I seem to have many photos of people’s backs in this post.


After a closing speech and shouts of otsukaresama deshita (good job!), the participants immediately got down to dismantling some parts of the mikoshi. I assume it’s to prepare it for safekeeping until it’s services are required again the following year.



9 thoughts on “Summer is for Matsuri

  1. I really can’t wait to go to Japan! 🙂

    I love the photos you’ve taken, it shows the personality of the place. I particularly like the 5th photo where you took it from straight above – it shows how many people are needed to carry the mikoshi.

  2. My heart was beating in excitement looking at the sea of humans in unity and loyalty. So Japanese spirit! I wish to live in Japan.

    Thanks for sharing the amazing photos! So awesome and fabulous like postcards.

    • I know what you mean TM. To see such a big group of people coming together to keep old traditions alive, I felt excited just following them around with my camera. I wanted to be a part of their journey in my very own way.

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