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Second day, two more festivals!

Shinjuku Eisa Matsuri Festival and Sumida River Fireworks

sunny 92 °F

We headed out into a second sweltering day in Tokyo on the lookout for more festivals. We headed for Shinjuku station and looked for the Shinjuku Eisa Matsuri Festival, a festival of Okinawan culture transplanted to Tokyo.

As we were trying to get our bearings in the enormous Shinjuki station, we passed a large number of political activities, as the election for governor of Tokyo was scheduled for the next day (a Sunday). We saw one moderate sized crowd listening to a woman giving a talk and headed onward. Little did we know that we had just passed by the woman, Yuriko Koike,who won the election the next day as a maverick candidate. If you watched the Olympics closing ceremony, she was the woman in the kimono representing Tokyo - quite a change from standing on a street corner haranguing a crowd three weeks earlier!

We found the festival but we were in need of food so we found a good ramen place. It took us about an hour in line, but it was worth it - excellent broth and noodles (and good beer!). Ramen places often have a very odd (to us) structure. The eating area consists of small booths for each diner, all in rows. When you enter the shop you use a vending machine to pay for a ticket that represents your meal. Next, you wait until a booth opens up and you are taken there by a server. They take your ticket and in a few minutes a slot opens up in the wall in the front of the booth and a bowl of ramen comes through. There is usually water available (this place had individual water taps in each booth) or you can usually order a beverage.

The Okinawan dance group that we saw was a definite contrast to the prior evening's event. Much more energetic dancing by all, accompanied by vigorous drumming, and much more individually improvisational.


Here's the whole troupe posing.


We watched until early evening then headed over to see the Sumida River fireworks. We naively assumed we could just wander over by way of a nearby subway station. However, when we got off the subway we found ourselves in a stream of people being funneled inexorably down streets (often with cross streets blocked by several parked busses) to ultimately emerge on a main street filled with people. And when I say filled, I mean it!

It was an eerie experience. Fireworks were nowhere to be seen, and all we could do was shuffle forward with thousands of people in front of and around us. There was crowd control in the direction we were heading, consisting of multiple police officers shouting orders into megaphones, all of it completely incomprehensible to us. To add to the surreal nature of the situation, there was a searchlight aimed right at us, so we felt that we were in some kind of weird 'walk into the light' situation.


As we slowly worked our way forward, the crowd grew to gargantuan proportions behind us.


After maybe an hour, we passed the searchlight and were then subdivided into groups of several hundred people and literally herded across the Sumida River bridge.

While crossing the bridge, it was possible to see some fireworks, and they were pretty dazzling.

tokyo_fireworks_5_rlhd.jpg (photo credit Robin Deits)

However, we got maybe 10 minutes to glimpse them before we exited the bridge. There were actually two shows going on simultaneously, one upriver and one downriver. However, I saw more fireworks as reflections in a nearby office building than by direct observation.


About 20 minutes after we crossed the bridge, the show ended. There were undoubtedly hundreds of thousands of people in the vast populus behind us who never got a glimpse of the show at all. Clearly, if you plan to view this show, much more careful planning for finding a viewing spot is called for. We enjoyed the experience anyway, and just seeing the kind of crowd that the show attracts was extremely cool. Robin thought that we had been in a bigger crowd at the Rally to Restore Reason several years ago in DC, and that crowd was about 600,000. I think there were at least that many people there. Bear in mind that even if it were a million people, it would represent only about 5% of the population of Tokyo!

Long day, long trip back to our apartment, time to collapse.....

Posted by tdeits 17:47 Archived in Japan Tagged japan festivals dancing okinawa fireworks ramen

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