Friday, November 13, 2009

festival day at Meiji shrine

Shichi-go-san (Japanese for 7-5-3) is an annual event here, when kids of said ages don their finest kimono and visit a Shinto shrine with their families to be celebrated and prayed for -- "to express their thanks to the tutelary deities" for their good health and to pray for future blessings, according to one official website.

We witnessed a bit of this last Saturday at the Meiji Shrine, one of three major Shinto shrines in Tokyo that see most of the action. (The festival date is actually Nov. 15, so I presume there will be more Shichi-go-san outings this weekend -- unless the weather is truly awful, and things have turned a bit cold and gray here...)

This young honoree really stood out, especially next to her mother and older sister who stuck with a more modern look. In other family groups, everybody was in traditional formal wear.

We didn't expect to see any wedding processions that day, but there they were: the happy couple walking under the big red umbrella, behind Shinto priestesses (in the bright orange bottoms) with Shinto priests out front.

the courtyard in late afternoon

A mother makes final adjustments before her daughter has her picture taken in front of some enormous chrysanthemums. (I wasn't the only shutterbug of no relation, horning in on the action.) Click on the image to enlarge it and you should be able to see just how high this little girl's sandals are. Fancy geta, with their fabric thongs and elevated -- and sometimes elaborately painted -- wooden soles (gold dragons covered the sides of one girl's pair), are particularly difficult to walk in, as they are sharply angled in the front.

Another wedding party, the bride in traditional white kimono and hood. The guy in the blue uniform, at left, keeps the path clear. My understanding is that couples are wed not in the main Meiji shrine building but in one of the smaller shrines off to the side. (The ceremonies here are private, unlike at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City, where our friends Jen and Bill exchanged vows in front of family, friends and hundreds of strangers). The main shrine is blocked but not hidden; you can get as close as the coin boxes and the big taiko drum to wish for good health, happiness, fertility and fortune.

My favorite feature in the whole 200-acre compound, though, is this giant torii, a shrine gate made of 1,500-year-old cypress.

Our friends James and Dorothy from Boston lead the way out through the entrance by Harajuku station.

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