The Shinjuku Eisa Matsuri takes over the streets of downtown Shinjuku for a day every summer – this year it was on Saturday July 26.
I was actually on my way to meet a couple of friends for lunch when I stumbled across this festival. Well, I guess I can’t say I ‘stumbled’ across it when the drums could be heard blocks away! Shinjuku is always buzzing with activity. There are ALWAYS a lot of people. Something’s always going on. You kind of just get used to it and pass things by without a second glance. But on this day, the beating drums and excited crowds drew me in! After realising it was the Eisa Matsuri, I straight away remembered I’d actually stumbled across the same festival 3 years ago when I was visiting Tokyo with friends. I still have a fan I’d received there (pic below)! The 3.11 Earthquake was fresh in everyone’s minds and I remember the festival really emphasising the ‘togetherness’ of Japan, the importance of everyone coming together during such a hard time.
This year’s festival was just as vibrant as 2011. The summer sun was blaring and hand-held fans could be seen waving furiously among the crowd. The performers did a great job considering! Eisa is actually a Bon dance originating from Okinawa. Bon, or Obon, is a Buddhist custom that keeps the memory of ancestors alive. People get together and dance and sing and play taiko (drums) and flutes and shamisen (like a banjo). I think the original meaning has been lost a little over the years and these days it’s just a fun celebration! This year, there were 25 teams of performers, each from different universities, schools, companies, and clubs.
Up Next: Kagurazaka Awa Odori