Sunday, we had brunch with Tara’s outgoing boss and her office. Then to walk off the extra calories and to take advantage of yet another glorious day, we went up to Asakusa for a festival.
Asakusa’s most famous for the Sensoji temple, which we stalked for new years and adults day. It’s beginning to not feel like a real holiday unless we’re elbow deep in crowds inching our way up through the stalls to the massive red gates. Sunday was extra special– the 700th annual Sanja festival. This week is our week for once in a whenever events.
The fact that this one temple’s festival outdates our whole country by several centuries is kind of awe inspiring… but tossing around 900 year this and 700 year that, it’s almost easy to forget we have such a small slice of time to ourselves. Anyway, the streets were more packed than the most packed we’d seen them. To put scale on that, we may need to invent some kind of crowd measurement. On the one end: Obama’s inauguration (where you not only surrender free movement for hours but could crowd surf for blocks whether they wanted to hold you up or not) and on the other end a morning gaggle at Starbucks (somewhat intense, but odds are good you can make it out with toes intact). This was a few rungs below inauguration to be sure, but still huge.
The mikoshi carrying is impressive to watch, but with crowds this big not only could we not get near the things, if they started tilting wildly in our direction, we’d never be able to dodge in time to escape. For the Sanja, they pull out all the stops and send mikoshi skittering through the neighborhoods– all 44 of the neighborhoods in the temple’s precinct to be precise. So they weave in and out of the streets, accompanied by thousands of well-wishers and camera-clickers. Deciding we liked our toes unbroken, we wandered into the temple alley in search of music.
The music was in the form of “maiden dances” at the temple. Here’s a tiny video— apologies for the quality, it was me hanging off a temple pole stretching over heads. The maidens were considerably more solemn than I’d anticipated so we didn’t last long before wandering off to gaze (gaze, not graze– brunch was big!) at the food wares.
So we managed to find some entertainment, but I’m sad to say that we saw neither these guys, nor these ones, nor these gals. Next year we definitely know what else to look for when Sanja rolls around!