May 23, 2010

Yoyogihachiman Shrine Goldfish Festival

The Goldfish Festival in Yoyogihachiman Shrine was held today, in the pouring rain. The festival's origins lie in the development of the Yoyogi area over 150 years ago. Residential areas were being created at the time, and goldfish were the perfect accessory for the ponds people had in their yards. The Goldfish Festival was an opportunity for people in the community to gather, playing goldfish-scooping games and dancing. When goldfish went out of fashion in the early 1900s, however, the festival petered out. After an absence of 90 years, the festival was revived in 2003, after which it has been held annually.

The shrine's website assured visitors that the tall trees would shield them from the rain, but no such luck. A surprising number of people showed up, but they were not without their rain boots, raincoats, and umbrellas.

Goldfish scooping, as popular as ever. People seemed to be doing very well, despite the flimsiness of the scoopers.

The entertainment portion included performers, who were allotted about 10 minutes each. Here, a quartet of women in Hawaiian-ish dressing unveil their magic tricks.

The combination of magic tricks and Hawaiian costumes and old ladies and dancing at first glance seemed bewilderingly inappropriate for a shrine festival, but it's an attitude that strikes me as modern Japanese: context and references are only lightly dwelt on, and lack of self-scrutiny is the engine that allows people to do their thing.

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