Asakusa! Asakusa!

So anyways, this Saturday, my friend Tommy and I headed out to the Sanja Matsuri in Asakusa, known to be one of the biggest Shinto festivals in Tokyo. And indeed it was quite expansive. Even before we had left the subway station we could hear the cheers and chants emanating from the streets above. Almost the moment we stepped out, we were submersed in a crowd of people who had converged to watch one of the “mikoshi” (portable shrines which are supposed to be representative of the larger Asakusa shrine, and which are carried around in order to bring good luck to the neighbourhoods they pass through) make its way through the streets.

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Although Tommy and I didn’t really have a clear idea of where to go, it seemed only natural to join the crowd of onlookers who were following the shrine as it made its tour of the area. From what I understand, if we had followed this mikoshi long enough, it would have indeed led us to the Asakusa Shrine (the hub of the festival where the majority of the ceremonies take place, and where all the mikoshi eventually converge). However, the procession was understandably quite slow, so Tommy and I split off to find our own way to the Asakusa shrine.

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It because clear we were getting close when we came across this large and decorated shopping street which lined the way to the main entrance of the shrine.

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The main area of the shrine was also quite crowded, filled with onlookers watching some sort of ceremony that was taking place at the front.

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Even the babies had a chance to view the festivities.

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The temple grounds on their own were really quite beautiful, so we enjoyed wandering amidst the complex of buildings. I was determined to collect another stamp for my book, which gave us a bit of purpose to our walking, but it did not stop us from making several detours.

Tommy bought a shrine book for himself, and we both received special commemorative Sanja Matsuri stamps. Afterwards we decided to head away from the growing swarms of people, and explore the area some more. Asakusa is filled with pedestrian walking streets, each with their own unique style, including one that was called “Orange Street” because of its distinctive red brick walkway.

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And of course, we had to take advantage of the many “selfie” opportunities which presented themselves as we toured the area.

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Before I forget, I finish off with what was probably one of my favourite parts of the entire festival. So I’m not sure exactly why, but part of the traditional men’s costume (either of the festival or the shrine in general, I’m not sure which) is a long, stiff cotton jacket… and that’s kind of it except for a pair of extremely revealing white underwear, (oh, and socks and sandals, of course).

I just found this so bizarre, and a little shocking, that I couldn’t help myself from surreptitiously snapping as many photos of this fashion trend as I could.

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There’s just something about a bunch of middle-aged guys walking around in the Japanese equivalent to tighty-whities, chanting “Asakusa!” over and over again, that makes me giggle.

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