Mitama Matsuri Festival:
Dates: 13th Jul- 16th Jul, 2023
Start/End Time: 9:00am-8:00pm
Venue: Yasukini Shrine
The Spirit of Obon in Tokyo
The Mitama Matsuri festival stands as a significant and spiritually resonant event in Japan, marking the beginning of the revered Japanese holiday season, Obon. Celebrated annually at the Yasukuni Shrine from July 13 to July 16 since 1947, the festival honors the souls of those who sacrificed their lives to defend Japan. With its intricate rituals, colors, and sounds, Mitama Matsuri has grown into one of Tokyo’s largest Obon celebrations, attracting around 300,000 visitors every year.
Festival Activities and Performances
During the day, several performances take center stage on a specially erected platform within the shrine area. Traditional dance groups and taiko drummers act as highlights of these festivities. Alongside these captivating acts are food stalls offering a wide variety of Japanese delicacies and carnival-style games for entertainment.
The venue also holds a unique form of group participation in the form of a simple dance led by a team of dancers around a circular stage. These activities aim to evoke a sense of unity and connection among attendees.
A Flood of Lanterns: The Festival’s Main Attraction
As night falls during the Mitama Festival, over 30,000 vivid yellow lanterns illuminate the path leading up to the main shrine entrance. This striking display evokes an ethereal experience akin to stepping into a dreamlike world.
Additionally, teams carry portable Shinto shrines called mikoshi through dense crowds while chanting and cheering to enliven the atmosphere further.
Bon Dori Dance and Artistic Expressions
In the area near the statue of Omura Masujiro, visitors gather and clad themselves in yukatas (casual summer kimonos) for the Bon Dori dance. This Obon dance is both simple and joyous, symbolizing a connection with the spirits of deceased loved ones.
Moreover, various paintings and drawings by artists and children are showcased within the shrine’s precincts to reflect the fusion of art and spiritualism. The lanterns lining both exterior and interior paths impart an enchanting aura of light and tranquility throughout the ceremony.
Message to Festival Attendees
Despite the controversy surrounding Yasukuni Shrine due to its political history, it’s important to note that the Mitama Matsuri festival is a rare cultural experience that transcends politics. The festival showcases an authentic portrayal of Japan’s spiritual life while fostering unity through shared celebration. Mitama Matsuri encourages visitors to express gratitude for peace and offers an opportunity to revel in ancient traditions while remembering loved ones who have passed on.