WPC – Chaos

When you think of the Japanese way of life, words that typically come to mind are orderly, calm or disciplined.

Then there are matsuri, or Japanese festivals…

My first taste of a ‘chaotic’ festival was the Sanja Matsuri, famous for the yakuza who walk around freely showing off their tattoos. Men and women heave portable shrines through the packed crowds, shouting, chanting and almost getting crushed along the way.

Recently, I went to the Kawagoe Matsuri for the first time. I’m not gonna lie, it was about 5 times more chaotic than the Sanja. It was hectic.

During the day, things are relatively peaceful. Hundreds and hundreds of yatai  – more than I’ve ever seen at a festival before –  line the streets selling yakitori, takoyaki, yakisoba, taiyaki, karaage, and all that good Japanese street food. Everyone is relaxed and having a good time.

Then when the sun goes down, the youngsters go home and the atmosphere completely changes. The crowd gets even more congested, everyone there to see 5~6 tonne dashi floats take part in ‘battles’. Whenever floats coming from opposite directions meet, they face each other and compete to decide who can pass first. The musicians on board turn it up a notch, the masked dancers at the front try to outdo each other, and the crowd cheers in support.

Because the streets are so narrow, the floats have to push their way through the half a million spectators. For the crowd, it’s like being in a concert mosh pit. You have no choice but to go with the flow even if that means stomping on toes and pushing people in the back. I came scarily close to the giant wheels of the dashi at one point. I also got separated from my friends during one of the battles. As soon as that battle finished, another started, and then another. It was 45 minutes till I finally managed to reunite with them!

Festivals like these have this exciting energy which you don’t get to see or feel in everyday Japan. It might be a little chaotic, but it’s definitely a lot of fun!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Chaos

Kawagoe MatsuriKawagoe MatsuriKawagoe MatsuriKawagoe MatsuriKawagoe Matsuri




18 thoughts on “WPC – Chaos

  1. you really showed us the chaos with your descriptive words and the photos…. and I wonder if the 5 million people at the recent cubs parade had some toe squashing to deal with!
    anyhow, it really says a lot with the 45 minute separation and the “being in a concert mosh pit”- and quite a change from the day to the night….

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi – no – we actually do not like baseball at all. Our children played for a season and they enjoyed it, but we prefer soccer and lax. And then for going to games, sometimes we go to pro baseball games, but not our preference – we only tune into major events on TV – especially when it is history.
        what about you – do you like baseball – or soccer?

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi John,
      Haha, none at all… I’ve heard of the shoulder bruises and sore muscles people get from carrying those mikoshi around. The festival in Nihombashi sounds like it was fun! Did you watch or actually join in?


      1. Hi Celia,
        Nihombashi was more of a practice day I think and I came across it by accident – one of those lucky accidents :). I got wrapped up taking photos and before I knew it I had been caught-up in the procession. It reminded me a bit of playing rugby, but with a lot more people. I did a post on it on25 Feb 2014 if you’re interested. Cheers,

        Liked by 1 person

  2. First of all wow…for you being an expat…my bro is an expat in Switzerland…then you write so well too…the Japanese culture is a very different culture for us inspite of it being an Asian country we feel more connected to us or Europe….so I find your post n pics very fascinating

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi there, thanks so much for your lovely comment! Yes, Japan is a fascinating country and very different to its Asian neighbours and the rest of the world for that matter! I’d love to visit India someday, too:)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Celia, I agree with Prior that your words are a great description of one of these chaotic festivals. With festivals seemingly everywhere, I am amazed by reading that so many people attend them.

    Accidentally rather than being planned, by daughter and I were caught up in the Shitaya Matsuri in Ueno – as you decsribed standing on a lane way corner unbeknown to us about the crush that was to engulf us.

    Good times though!


    1. Hi Tony! Sounds like you had a similar experience in Ueno. I can just imagine it with those narrow streets. Isn’t it a thrill though! I reckon the best part of summer is all the festivals.


      1. There are many things that I enjoy about Japan, with the festivals in the top 3. I am coming back in late August for 2 weeks, ending back to Tokyo on 30th before the soccer game against the Blue Samurai. Now I am discovering a number of festivals happening in the week or so before this!

        Seriously considering doing some major swapping around.


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