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Posts tagged 天祖神社

Prepping for the Tenso Jinja Bon Odori

tenso jinja nishiwaseda bonodori

Tenso Jinja (Nishiwaseda, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan)

After a 20-year gap in living in Japan, we went back to live in Tokyo for a year beginning in 2009. On our first night we headed to a Bon Odori at Tenso Jinja. That was a magical night for me.

Flash forward to 2013, and I hadn’t been to Japan for over three years. I wandered into my old neighborhood to find my local shrine getting ready for its annual Bon Odori. The vibe was bittersweet as I waxed nostalgic but also realized I would be heading back to the USA before the actual event took place the following week.

Summer festivals in Japan

tenso jinja matsuri bonodori tokyo olympics sign

Japanese party signs

While wandering through my old neighborhood in Tokyo a little over a year ago I noticed these signs for the 2013 version of the Bon Odori I went to in 2009 and the matsuri I went to that same year. Unfortunately, I wasn’t going to be in Tokyo long enough to experience either of them again. Instead, I ended up at this place.

The poster on the right is for the 2020 Summer Paralympics which will also take place in Tokyo. That announcement came down shortly after I took this photo.

Tenso Jinja’s festival

mikoshi omikoshi japanese portable shrine

Tenso Jinja’s annual matsuri wraps up with a triumphant entry of the omikoshi (お神輿) back into the shrine after a day on the town.

Red Bike at Shinto Shrine

red bike japanese man tenso jinja nishiwaseda tokyo japan

One morning, after a brief rain storm, the sky got partially blue so I went out to take some pictures. I stopped and sat at the nearby Tenso Jinja. No one was around so things were quite peaceful. I heard a bike come pedaling up. A little, old Japanese man was the rider of a bright red bike. He pulled up, parked his bike, walked in front of the shrine, bowed, rang the bell, clapped his hands, bowed again, and then jumped on his bike to head out again.

He saw me at this point and came on over. We chatted for a while about the weather, Tokyo being denied its bid to host the 2016 summer Olympics (which was announced earlier on the same morning), and Hawaii (where one of his children live). Then he hopped on his bike and away went the streak of red that had left a smile on my face.

盆踊り Bon Odori – Day of the Dead Dance – 1st Night

It has been 21 years since I saw my last Bon Odori. The dancers came right down the street I was living on at the time in Kofu, Yamanashi Ken. Fast forward to the present and the morning after we arrived in Japan. I saw an announcement that the local shrine in Nishi-Waseda was having a Bon Odori on that very night and the following evening as well. I was so excited!

bon odori torii

My family didn’t have the energy to attend, and my daughter feel asleep before the dance began, so I headed to the shrine on my own. It is only a two minute walk. The music began just as I arrived. There were only a dozen or so dancers. The dancers’ husbands were all sitting together, in matching yukata, fanning themselves.

bon odori dancer husbands

As the music reached the ears of our neighbors, they all seemed to creep out of their homes and make it to the shrine. By the time I left, an hour later, over a hundred people were in attendance, and the number of dancers had increased by several fold.

bon dance nishiwaseda tokyo japan august 15 2009

I was, of course, the only non-Japanese person there. The whole evening was enchanting. I felt as though I had traveled through time and space. The tall, modern, Tokyo buildings couldn’t be seen in the darkness. The light from the paper lanterns was dim, and the shrine in the background provided the perfect setting. My lack of a yukata and foreign looks seemed to ruin the authenticity so I stayed back in the shadows.

dance of the dead folk japan bon obon odori taiko drumming

I’ll wrap up day one of the Bon Odori with this video (which I actually took on the following night). There will be more from the August 16, 2009 天祖神社盆おどり in tomorrow’s entry.

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