WHAT: MITAMA MATSURI 2019
WHY: SUMMER FESTIVAL
WHEN: SATURDAY 13TH TO TUESDAY 16TH JULY 2019
WHERE: YASUKUNI SHRINE, CHIYODA, TOKYO, JAPAN
COST: FREE TO ATTEND
One of Tokyo’s most popular summer festivals is the Mitama Matsuri, and has been held since 1947. It’s a world-famous attraction with hundreds of thousands of visitors and locals attending the event each year to see the spectacle of the 30,000 lanterns hung on the walkway up to the Yasukuni shrine.
If you want you can hang your own lantern at the shrine, but you must apply for this beforehand, Prices start from 3,000 yen (£22) for a small lantern and 12,000 yen (£88) for a large.
The schedule changes every year, but you can expect live music and theatrical performances, traditional dances and witness the 1st bon odori dance welcoming the spirits of the dead. The festival follows Buddhist tradition of Obon; a celebration to honour spirits and ancestors of the dead, so it will come as a surprise to visitors that you can also find Obake Yashiki (a type of Japanese haunted house) at the festival. Despite seeming rather out of place, they are one of the most popular attractions that are visited during this time.
Amongst the stalls, you won’t find the normal festival fare for sale as this is not allowed in the grounds of the shrine. However, there is a scattering of stalls selling snacks and refreshments. Try some of the local food such as takoyaki (octopus filled ball-shaped dumplings), okonomiyaki (grilled pancake with savory ingredients),) or treat yourself to wattame bagged (candy floss). Along with the food why not try the summertime dress and don a yukata (summer kimono) to keep cool in the summer heat.
The celebration each year fall on the 13th July and runs for 4 days, and to see the mitama matsuri at its best it is in the evening around 6pm. This is when all the 30,000 lanterns are individually lit creating a spectacular approach to the shrine and giving a warm glow to the evening air.
This festival is one of the Capital’s best summer festivals and can become very crowded but is a must-see for an insight into the truly authentic Japanese summer experience, and something that you will never forget.