Warabi Hadaka Matsuri - a Massive Muddy Naked Men Festival in Chiba
Tokyo, Yokohama and Kanto
Shimokitazawa is a 10 – 15-minute train journey from Shinjuku and maybe about 5 from Shibuya. That said it is rarely mentioned in tourist guidebooks. I first went there when I had been in Japan for less than a year and was pleasantly surprised. The small streets were full of cool boutiques and smaller shops selling ethnically inspired goods, knick-knacks, affordable clothes and other nice stuff that you find in Japan.
Shimokitazawa, also known as Shimokita, is a well-known student hang out and has the feeling of different aspects of Tokyo. The small windy backstreets like when you get lost in Harajuku, but more low key and perhaps less glaringly fashionable. It also has useful things like a Kaldi coffee shop where you can pick up international goods. Other shops sit nestled between a variety of restaurants with everything like Canadian Beef, Okonomiyaki, Thai, and traditional Japanese food.
I was intrigued to find out that there is a 3-day festival dedicated to Setsubun for 3 days from February 2nd to 4th. Advertised with a variety of posters looking very scary to the undiscerning eye I was interested to see how a local place put on a very traditional festival. Setsubun (literally meaning season division) was named because it comes right before the lunar calendar’s official spring date. The Festival runs for 3 days (a day earlier than the official Setsubun). I read that Setsubun began in the 13th century to get rid of evil spirits by burning fish heads. I don’t know about you, but while I like sushi I am not a huge fan of strong (bad) smells.
Marking the official end of the winter felt rather funny because there was still a very big chill in the air and snow on the edges of the sidewalk. No burning of any kind was to be found on the second day instead of when I headed out of the North exit I saw a bunch of people dressed in bright red, blue, or green lycra bodysuits. Always a winner it seems here!
The gathering crowd seemed to be divided into people with sticks and official looking luminous workers vests or a few others (mostly men) in a form of ritual kimono colored blue and purple. I wasn’t quite sure what was going on as I was expecting to make my way to the temple as I had read this was where the day two events were. Instead, the men in traditional clothes were herding people with shouting and smiley faces down the street in a kind of procession.
As I wasn’t sure of what to do I asked a friendly looking family whose little son had offered me a packet of the dried beans. I had seen children throwing beans before in my days of teaching at the Japanese kindergartens but doing this on the street chanting “Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi! (Devil’s out, happiness in)” was very touching when many other small children wanted to offer me beans. I wondered if they thought that as a foreigner here I might need extra protection!
It was a bit like being in a primary school moving festival with lots of excitement and anticipation. The crowd was a mix of families with toddler age children and others of all ages. We went through all the narrow streets in a circle before ending up in a place designated to throw more beans at the men in lycra. Here I realized that they were actually dressed up as “Oni” or devils, just very colorful with bright makeup! When we stopped, the bean throwing got really intense before the procession continued on to another place.
Dates: February 1st – 3rd every year
Place: Shimokitazawa shopping street. Shimokitazawa Ichibangai
Address: 2-23 Kitazawa, Setagaya, Tokyo
Official website (Japanese only): http://www.shimokita-tengu.com/
You can go to Tengu Matsuri from Shinjuku by the Odakyu line or Shibuya by the Keio line. Each day has different events so be sure to confirm with the official website to find the starting times. By the way, the festival is completely free to take part in!
I could only attend one of the three events. So, my conclusion is that it is a nice chance to see something with a local feel. Shimokitazawa Tengu Matsuri isn’t a big event but it’s very local. As a character from the British TV comedy “The League of Gentlemen” once said “local things for local people”. There was pure joy in the children and older people in doing something together. If you happen to be in central Tokyo in February and have a spare few hours, it is definitely worth popping in to take a look. However, make sure to be punctual as I arrived at 1:40 for what had been advertised as starting at 2pm but already seemed to be underway.
Friends in Japan can take you to this festival! Check the banner below to make a custom trip including the Shimokitazawa Tengu Matsuri.
Most of the travelers who come to Japan enter the country through Tokyo. Even if it is not the main place of your destination, it would be a great idea to stay in the capital city for a few days. The biggest conglomerate in the world has much to offer to any kind of traveler. Whether you want to go sightseeing, shopping, eating out, or trying something special that you can experience only in Japan, Tokyo has it all. In the following article, you will find 100 things and many ideas on how to spend your time in Tokyo! Please, have a look, URL: https://festivalgo.huber-japan.com/events/7726/
Image courtesy of Tomomarusan
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Japan is a country of festivals indeed. Matsuri is an essential part of traditional Japanese culture. Thus, every day somewhere in Japan a festival takes place. There are traditional and modern festivals, on the sea and on the ground, in summer and winter. Japanese are hardworking people. However, when you attend at least one festival in Japan, you will understand how locals like to party. The article under the link below will introduce you to a celebration on any day of the year. I am sure you will find an event that suits your interests utmost!