Fukuro Matsuri is a traditional Japanese festival held in Ikebukuro, a district of Toshima ward in Tokyo. Each year at the end of September, the neighborhood’s inhabitants and merchants celebrate the advent of autumn to the rhythm of taiko drums, with a parade of mikoshi portable shrines and Yosakoi dance.
Tokyo tends to be more associated with modernity than with the folk ambiance of Japanese matsuri. As a matter of fact, matsuri do exist in the capital (although in limited numbers), and Fukuro Matsuri is one of its main celebrations.
Fukuro Matsuri, is however, a sponsored and recent festival: It was first held in 1968 by a handful of Ikebukuro’s merchants’ associations to promote their now famous neighborhood, located in the north of the megalopolis. The festival has preserved these characteristics and is still unchanged today. With about 200,000 spectators each year, it is one of the biggest festivals in Tokyo.
The festival spans over a weekend and is relatively quiet on Saturday for its opening evening. The significant part of Fukuro Matsuri happens on Sunday, with the parade of a dozen of mikoshi portable shrines. Concerts of taiko drums and other traditional instruments are organized for the musical ambiance. This splurge of tradition offers a stunning contrast with the electronic area in the neighborhood.
The ambiance becomes merrier as night falls. Naturally, food and drinks stalls, as well as stall games for the younger ones, welcome onlookers early in the afternoon. However, don’t wait too long to find your watching spot along the barriers in the street as the crowd is dense and might prevent a comfortable viewing of the processions.
Fukuro Matsuri is a two-part festival completed two weeks later by Tokyo Yosakoi, another festival named from the eponymic traditional dance originating from Kochi, in Shikoku. The second part of the festival is thus centered on dancing: hundreds of artists donned in multicolor costumes, originating from all around Japan, are dispatched in several dozens of teams to perform their dance in the streets.