Wednesday, May 30

Tokyo wonderland

Well after spending all weekend running around, it's the middle of the week and I'm dead tired and ready to collapse into bed. I have another 8-10 new pictures to scan in and post from last weekend, but that'll be for later...

Sanja Matsuri

I was going to talk about the Sanja Matsuri in detail, but I think you can find a lot more information about just about all of Japan's Matsuris online these days; and the only thing that really stood out about this one was the Matsuri riders. Now just to be clear I'm making up the name "Matsuri riders" right now to describe a group of people who climb up and then ride the omikoshi (portable shrine).

For some quick background, the center piece of any good matsuri is a very heavy omikoshi (portable shrine) which is hauled on the shoulders of lively festival goers around their local town to promote X. The idea is that the heavy shrine would crush any single human being (like much of Japanese society), and so it's a group effort which usually involves lots of alcohol and cheering. These portable shrines are considered holy maybe, and they are owned/stored by the local temples (which typically have some connection to the mob).

Well evidently in this years Sanja Matsuri things went a little too far (Alcohol + "too far", imagine that...), and some people climbed up on the top of the shrine,
that 50+ people were hauling around, and danced the funky dance. The matsuri riders as I like to call them garnered quite a bit of publicity since the local TV crews grabbed some great footage of them acting like asses, and the public outcry began.
Now try and think of Elvis gyrating his pelvis on top of a cross at Easter mass in the 1950's, and you have a pretty good grasp of the situation here now. For more details you can read the heavily sanitized story here in English.

The rest of my weekend I spent walking around Sugamo, the shopping district for ladies age 70 plus. This area is colorfully known as the "Harajuku for old women", and quickly grabbed my interest with the title alone. I mean what could a district for older people look like?

I was imagining,
1. Bingo Halls
2. White slacks on sale everywhere
3. Slow moving polite shoppers, images of Wal-mart greeters come to mind
4. Lots of haggling to save $0.02 on the price of dried squid
5. Complaints about how everything used to be better

What I found,
1. Quick old women fighting to get at items in the discount rack
2. Grandmotherly ladies throwing elbows to make space through the crowd
3. Red ladies panties everywhere, with signs proclaiming excellent prices...
4. Lots of really cheap clothes only your grandmother would be caught wearing.
5. Horrible foot traffic, because 3 old ladies in walkers chatting side by side might as well be a wall.
7. Lots of complaints about how store clerks used to be more helpful
7. Cackling that would make the wicked witch of the west pause in envy

I'll add pictures of the above here shortly, but until then
Continued in Part 2 next week...

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