Geishas and Floating Hina Dolls in Tokyo: Edo Nagashibina

When people think about seeing geishas in Japan, the first thing that come to their mind is probably Kyoto (where geishas are called geikos and their apprentices maikos) with the Gion district or Pontocho. However, that does not mean you cannot be entertained by authentic geishas in other cities. In Tokyo, the main geisha area is the Kannonura street in the Asakusa district. One way to maximize your chances to see them from up close, is to find out the public events or festivals in which they participate. One of this events is Edo Nagashibina, a  ceremony during which children and their parents send into the Sumida river floating Hina dolls made with paper to dispel any potential misfortune waiting for them in the year ahead.

Again this year, 3 geishas from Asakusa were taking part in the official ceremony, and sent their own wishes into the river.

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In a red kimono, we had Rei-san:

In a dark green kimono, Tsugumi-san:

And in a blue kimono, Akane-san:

When you see geishas in the street, they are usually on their way to (or from) a work appointment, so they usually don’t have time to stop and talk to you. However, when they are on “official public duty”, they will let you take all the pictures you want as long as you don’t disturb the overall organization of the event.

Once the usual preliminary speeches are over, the geishas and the city officials joined the rest of the crowd on the Sumida river bank, where they release a flurry of balloons shaped like doves. Everyone can then let go his/her paper hina doll into the water.  Children from the Taito City “Ishihama Hachiba Children’s Center” have the extra privilege to do it from a boat especially decorated for the occasion.

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Coming of Age Day (2016)

Coming of Age Day is held every year in Japan on the second Monday of January, to celebrate those who have become “adults” over the past year. The city townhalls hold ceremonies where the “new adults” are invited to receive some encouragements for their future. Many attend the event wearing traditional clothes, though this is mainly true for ladies (wearing the furisode, a long-sleeved kimono for unmarried woman), while the guys are mostly wearing suits. Here is a typical illustration of this:

 

Many people will couple this event with a visit to the shrine/temple with either their family or friend, to make wishes for the new year, so I usually go to Meiji Jingu to take portraits of them.

 

The complete gallery of portraits:

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New Year in Japan

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As has been the case every year since I moved to Tokyo, I started the year with the traditional visit to the shrine in my neighborhood (when in Rome, do as the Romans do…).

With so many people doing the same thing at the same time, the queue to pray can grow exponentially, so you really don’t want to arrive after 11:00AM (which does not sound so bad, but we are talking 1st of January here… 😉) or be ready to wait for hours if you chose a popular shrine.

2016 is the year of the monkey (according to the Chinese calendar), so more people than usual come the Hie jinja to pray at the monkey statues of the shrine, with some bringing bananas tob. Hopefully this is a good omen for this blog 😉

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2014 Coming of Age Day

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The ceremonies of the Coming of Age Day (成人の日, Seijin no Hi in Japanese) are held every year on the second Monday of the year, to celebrate the young people who have reached the age of majority over the last year. On this special day, most young women will wear a kimono with long sleeves (called furisode), which indicates that they are not yet married. Some young men will also be wearing traditional clothes on this occasion, but truth be told nowadays most of them are wearing western suits. While heavy snow was covering the streets of Tokyo last year, the weather was excellent this year.

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While the main events of are usually held within city halls or hotels with large meeting rooms, many among the young adults will also chose to visit a temple or a shrine after the official ceremonies. Meiji Jingu is always a popular choice, and you will without a doubt find there some “new adults” immortalizing in pictures this special day for them with their parents.

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To be perfectly honest, I highly suspect that some of the women wearing kimono at Meiji Jingu are models whose role is to attract tourists and the mass of photographers (or maybe they just came there because they like their picture to be taken or because they represent a kimono rental shop for all I know…), so that regular people joining the ceremonies don’t get overly bothered. It might just be a conspiracy theory of mine, but it would be a good idea indeed, that could be used in other occasions instead of having some security guard running after photographers… Anyway, from my experience anyone wearing traditional clothes on that day will easily let you take his/her picture, as long as you speak the international language of “a nod of the head with a smile”. 😉

Talk to you soon…

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Heavy snow in Tokyo for the 2013 Coming-of-Age Day

Coming of Age day under the snow in TokyoToday was a national holiday in Japan, to celebrate the Coming-of-Age Day. If you don’t already know what this is, you can check out the blog post I wrote about it last year.

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Just like last year, I was planning on hitting the streets of Tokyo to get some pictures of the usual Coming-of-Age Day kimonos parade, but when I woke up this morning it was just pouring rain outside, and I got instantly much less excited… Another glance through the window a couple of hours later to check if the rain had stopped, and suddenly I realized that one of the biggest snowfalls of the recent years in Tokyo was happening outside. It was one of these times, when you don’t even know It is has begun to snow, but suddenly when you look outside there is already a huge white blanket of snow upon  your familiar streets.

Coming of Age day under the snow in Tokyo

Well, right away I knew it was a stupid idea, and that all I would get from that would be dead shoes, wet clothes, drowned gear, and most likely a cold, but there was just no way trying to resist… I had to go outside and get some pictures of this very special 2013 Coming-of-Age Day. Here are some of them…

Coming of Age day under the snow in Tokyo

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