When I went out for my walk-run late this morning, I ran past the Tamagawa Sengen Jinja and it was filled with excitement. It turned out that the excitement was due to the shrine’s matsuri (festival). Today, they brought out the omikoshi (portable shrine). This jinja takes out its omikoshi, and local volunteers carry it around the neighborhood, once every 3 years, and today marks the third year. They started at around 8:00 am, and were expected to return to the shrine after sundown.
Hoping to catch the end of the festivities, my husband and I went over to the shrine at sunset. The steps leading to the shrine were festooned with lanterns with the character 祭 (matsuri) or festival. People were paying their respects at the shrine. Below, the street was closed to traffic, and was crowded with revellers.
We arrived just in time to catch the omikoshi carriers in a well-deserved break, before they carried the omikoshi back to the shrine. The omikoshi, although it’s portable, is heavy. I carried one years ago, and my shoulders and upper back were black and sore for more than one week. But it was fun to do it, not just for the experience of carrying the portable shrine, but the camaraderie among neighbors, sharing the weight of the omikoshi for hours under the sun and sharing sake or beer during breaks. Those carrying the omikoshi can get into a frenzy, which can spill over to the crowd. I managed to speak to some of them. Maybe it’s the charged atmosphere or it’s the sake, but they were so excited to talk about the festival. I wish I had a tape recorder with me.
It was an absolutely delightful afternoon and experience. To cap this lovely day, my husband and I enjoyed the rest of the festivities dining outside our favorite cafe. Since I had an active day, with all the walking and some running, I rewarded myself with Baileys with ice cream.
The shrine was still abuzz when we started our walk home.