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Friday, July 16, 2010

Mitama Matsuri at Yasukuni Shrine 2010

Yesterday, I noticed an increase of traffic for last year's blog post about the Mitama Matsuri (or Mitama Festival) at the Yasukuni Shrine. I checked the date and realized that it's exactly been a year (plus a day) since I went to the festival. Last year I went with two of my friends, Zifeng and Yang Yang, it was a fun experience. We went there in the evening, and left after sunset.

It took me a while to decide whether I wanted to go again or not, with a newer camera, I could take much better photos than last year's. Too bad I would be going alone, but then, it's always been the case anyway.

This time, I arrived at the shrine at around 7:30pm. It was already night.

Mitama Matsuri at Yasukuni Temple (15th July 2010)

And immensely crowded!

Entering the Mitama Matsuri at Yasukuni Temple

People eating at the food stalls during Mitama Matsuri

The haunted house was still there, so were the two elderly women at the entrance.

The two ticket attendants of the Mitama Matsumi Haunted House (Yasukuni Temple)

The Haunted House at Mitama Matsuri, Yasukuni Temple

Mitama Festival is a celebration of the spirits of the ancestors, people are here to pay their respects. Nearly 30 000 lanterns are hung on the walls throughout the shrine.

The lanterns of Mitama Matsuri

Mitama Matsuri lanterns

It was difficult to wade through the crowd.

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One of my clearest remembrances of last year's festival was the Bon Odori. Last year, the dance was just about to start when I was leaving, this time, I was in the midst of its infectious joy!

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Bon Odori, Yasukuni Shrine (Mitama Festival 2010)

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I continued my way, battling through the sea of humanity, pausing only slightly to catch a better glimpse of a beautiful young woman in yukata, yet I pressed on.

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I arrived at the Chumon Torii, the last gate before the main prayer hall.

The famous Chumon Torii of Yasukuni Shrine (Mitama Festival 2010)

Swaying colours at the temple gate

Before the temple gate

I paused before making my way through the gate. I looked at the lanterns, I liked them.

Beautiful lanterns at Yasukuni Shrine (Mitama Festival 2010)

Lanterns of Mitama Festival 2010

Next to the controversial Yushukan (a Japanese military and war museum) were lanterns of a different kind.

Lantern exhibition during Mitama Festival 2010

Traditional mural.

Traditional Japanese mural at Yasukuni

And a group of kids running around the trees of the courtyard.

Under the tree (Mitama Festival 2010)

I heard the sound of a woman singing traditional Japanese song and went towards its direction.

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Lady performing at Yasukuni Shrine, Mitama Festival 2010

Watching a stage performance (Mitama Festival 2010)

The main courtyard was also filled with lanterns, and lovey dovey young couples, filling my desolate wasteland of a heart with darkness and angst.

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I finally made my way to the main prayer building, the Haiden.

Yasukuni Haiden

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The crowd and a pretty girl were praying.

Pretty girl praying at Yasukuni Haiden (Mitama Festival 2010)

Then, more people praying.

Praying at Yasukuni Haiden (Mitama Festival 2010)

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Yes, the main hall was indeed busy. So busy that I regretted not paying closer attention to the pair of pretty ladies walking across the frame at the 5-10 second mark (evident by the fact that I panned my camera away from them)

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Lanterns of Yasukuni Shrine at Mitama Festival 2010

Sleeping child (Mitama Festival 2010)

I turned and left.

Leaving Yasukuni (Mitama Festival 2010)

But before that, I paused, looking at the swaying banners above me, a kaleidoscope of colours.

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I walked past a girl in Yukata, posing for her lover. Like a model for a photographer in a private photography session, I felt as if I had invaded their privacy even though I was several meters away.

Girl in Yukata having her photo taken by lover (Mitama Festival 2010)

Two babies caught my attention, one had a mohawk, another had cornrows (the one the right, but you can't see in this photo).

Babies with mohawk and cornrows (Mitama Festival 2010)

I thanked the father and resumed my stroll. Two young ladies in yukata hurried past me.

Women in Yukata hurrying away (Mitama Festival 2010)

Dazzling colours at the Yasukuni Temple gates (Mitama Festival 2010)

Chumon Torii at Yasukuni Shrine (Mitama Festival 2010)

How odd. Yasukuni Shrine is only 3 stations away from my place. I was told that it was within walking distance (well, a one-hour walk), yet since I've moved to stay in Tokyo in 2008, I've only been there three times. Almost only once a year.

Two ladies disapproved my photo-taking.

Two yukata-wearing girls disapprove my photo taking (Mitama Festival 2010)

I reached the Kudanshita station and took the train home.

Girls in Yukata entering the Kudanshita station