Fukagawa Hachiman Matsuri
💧 Tokyo’s Refreshing Summer Festival
Fukagawa Hachiman Matsuri is a great yearly summer festival held by Tomioka Hachiman-gu shrine in Tokyo’s Monzen-nakacho district. It takes place in mid-August during Obon. The matsuri’s highlight is a parade of sacred mikoshi portable shrines, carried by the locals, young and old, on Sunday. During this festival, the participants are cheerfully splashed with large amounts of water.
Fukagawa Hachiman Matsuri is organized by Tomioka Hachimangu shrine, which is therefore at the core of the event. The most important mikoshi portable shrines are indeed displayed in its grounds beside the procession time. It is thus possible to admire the Ichinomiya float, that weights nearly four tons.
Celebrations on a three-years cycle
The festival takes place over five days, around August 15 and during the Obon period. The most important day is Sunday, with the procession of the sacred palanquins throughout the day in the neighborhood’s streets.
The greatest event, called Hon-matsuri, is staged every three years. On this occasion, miko priestesses perform dances on floats pulled by trucks on the Saturday parade. Sunday sees a parade of about fifty mikoshi. The latest Hon-matsuri was scheduled to take place in 2020, but it was postponed in 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemics.
The year before the Hon-matsuri is dedicated to children, who carry about thirty smaller portable shrines, suitable for their sizes. The year following Hon-matsuri is characterized by the procession of only one huge mikoshi.
Water-throwing during the procession
Fukagawa Hachiman Matsuri is what is called in Japan a Mizukake Matsuri 💧, that is to say a festival where people carrying the mikoshi are drenched in water by the spectators to purify them. Children, parents and elderly people joyfully partake in this good-nature tradition. Larges basins of water, and sometimes small pools are arranged along the road. These water reservoirs are used to quickly fill in buckets and water-guns. Others are waiting in front of their house with a garden hose aimed at the crowd. Every body has fun throwing water or being splashed.
The neighborhood’s firemen and the koban’s policemen also join the festivities. The first use their water hose vertically to spray as many people as possible, while the latter instruct them where to direct it and when to stop.
All along the 8 kilometers procession, the portable shrines are showered with water. In this friendly atmosphere, one can enjoy the water throws to be refreshed under the scorching heat of August. Nearby, the food stalls gathered in the vicinity of Naritasan Fukagawa Fudodo temple and Tomioka Hachiman-gu shrine allow to snack on skewers and fresh drinks until nightfall.
Fukagawa Matsuri is an occasion to take beautiful pictures. Water enlivens the colors of each groups’ traditional costumes ; and the happy faces of the participants make good memories. This great matsuri is certainly one of the most enjoyable and most memorable of the capital in summer.