Mitama Festival - 2017
Another year, another summer and that meant the festival season was underway! Due to work I can’t get to as many as I’d like but I in 2017 I was able to get to the Mitama festival at Yasukuni shrine. I was better prepared for it this time and so enjoyed it a lot more than in 2016. If you don’t know anything about the festival, it is dedicated to those who died defending Japan and is held in their honour. Yes, I know, for many people that the shrine is quite controversial but the festival really is one of those events that should be visited at least once in a lifetime.
At night, the area comes alive when the 30,000 lanterns stacked as many as ten high, are turned on and light both sides of the road from the main entrance up to the main gate and an omikoshi (portable shrine) appears. The shrine is big and weighs about 1000kg. It is carried by men and women up the main road to the shrine bouncing it up and down on their shoulders and occasionally spinning it around all the while surrounded by an enormous crowd of people cheering them on as well as wanting to get pictures of the event. And being the twenty-first century, everyone wants their pictures so sometimes it is like you are in an ocean of mobile phones.
A short break is taken at the main gate, long enough for everyone to catch their breath, then the omikoshi is picked up again and carried to the main shrine of Yasukuni. Believe me when I say, the whole event can be an experience. It’s night, it’s hot and there is an enormous number of people surrounding a small group of people who are carrying an enormous shrine pulling it in so many directions but mostly in the direction of the shrine. So much energy there. It is fun, very friendly and I highly recommend it. Even the spectators, I’m convinced, leave there nearly as tired as the people carrying the shrine.
The Mitama Festival is over now, but it will return in July 2018. If you want to learn more about Yasukuni shrine, you can visit its website here.