18 Aug

Yesterday was the day for the annual 深川八幡祭り (Fukagawa-Hachiman Festival).
Not only that, it was also the big, full festival that occurs every three years!

You can read a little more about this festival on my Festivals page by Clicking here.

I didn’t mention it before but two years ago I was invited to participate in this year’s festival.

I carried a 神輿 (portable shrine) in this festival nine years ago…and the next day, I swore that I’d never do it again!
It was a unique, fun experience…but my body ached so bad that I decided that I only wanted to experience 神輿 (portable shrine) festivals as a spectator from then on.

But carrying a 神輿 (portable shrine) can be compared to drinking in excess…you enjoy it while you’re doing it, but the next day you’re in pain and tell yourself that you’ll never do that again. But when the memory of the pain fades, you’ll happily agree to join in again!

That’s what happened in 2006 when I was invited to join in the 2008 festival. I gladly agreed.
I’m not saying that I regret my decision. Not at all.
My muscles ache…but it’s not so bad. And I really enjoyed it.

At the end of yesterday’s festival, I was invited to join in the next big, full version of the festival again in 2011! I agreed again.

Anyways, yesterday, I got to the meeting place at 7:30AM and changed into the clothes worn by 神輿 (portable shrine) carriers.
This festival is centuries old and little has changed…including the clothes.

There are over 50 神輿 (portable shrine) carried by different groups in this festival. Each group wears a different 反転 (light jacket).

At 8:00 our leader gave us a few encouraging words and then we picked up our 神輿 (portable shrine) and it began!

Each group has about 70 people (I’d estimate) and only 30 or so can fit around the 神輿 (portable shrine) at a time. So the remaining people who aren’t actually carrying it follow behind and change out with the carriers as they become tired.

What makes this festival different from most 神輿 (portable shrine) festivals is that the people in the crowd throw water on the people carrying the 神輿 (portable shrines)!

Many people stand in trucks with the beds full of water and use buckets to throw the water, some people use garden hoses…and the Tokyo Volunteer Fire Department was there—spraying us with fire hoses!
We got soaked!

At noon, we put the 神輿 (portable shrine) down and all of us (nearly 4000 people, I guess) were given お弁当 (Japanese box lunches).

At that point, we were pretty sore…and cold. Usually getting soaked is a blessing for the people carrying the 神輿 (portable shrines) at this festival since August in Tokyo is sweltering. And it has been extremely hot every day this month…but the day before this festival, there was a storm in Tokyo and I guess it brought a bit of a cold-front. In addition, it was overcast all day.
But we weren’t done yet…only halfway.

After lunch, it began to lightly rain. Noone would’ve noticed since we were already very wet. But that didn’t make the weather any warmer.

At the end, we didn’t just put the 神輿 (portable shrine) away. It was done extravagantly! Turning around and around, throwing it up and catching it. 神輿 (portable shrine) aren’t light…about 2 tons!) with lots of water being sprayed at us!
It was quite a show.

I enjoyed it alot! And I’ll be back for more in 2011!

It was over at 5:30PM…over nine hours! We were given some beer and we had a toast to our success.

Since I was busy carrying the 神輿 (portable shrine) and getting soaked, my wife took all of the photos and videos!
She took some excellent pictures and videos! Better than I do.

Here’s a slideshow of some of the photos of my 神輿 (portable shrine) group:

[rockyou id=120554167]

And here are twelve (!) videos that she took:

(If you enjoyed this post, you can vote for it on digg.com by clicking the “Digg it” button below:)


19 Responses to “深川八幡祭り”

  1. Somewhere in the world today... (Christine) August 10, 2011 at 2:38 am #

    What an amazing experience! Good luck with the 2011 matsuri!


    • tokyo5 August 10, 2011 at 3:28 pm #

      >Good luck with the 2011 matsuri!

      Actually, because of the 2011 March 11 earthquake this year’s festival has been postponed until next year.

      I’m not sure if I’ll participate in it next year or not.


      • tokyo5 August 14, 2012 at 12:13 am #

        As I mentioned above, last year’s earthquake caused the 2011 festival to be postponed until this year.

        The big Fukugawa-Hachiman Festival was held last Sunday (2012 August 12)… and I participated again.

        My wife and daughters took many excellent photos!

        I’ll write a post about it ASAP.


  2. tokyo5 September 6, 2008 at 12:42 am #


    >Thank you for replying me!!

    And thank you for commenting. Please comment often!

    >I live in seattle for 1year and 2 months

    I’ve never been to Washington. How is it?

    >I’m gonna get back Japan at the end of this month.

    Oh, soon! Do you miss Japanese food?

    >I’m so happy because you love 富岡八幡宮例大祭。I’m proud of it
    as 地元人.

    Yes, in Kiba you’re a “local”. You must have seen the 深川八幡祭 (Fukagawa-Hachiman Festival) often.
    And have you ever watched 木場の角乗り (Kiba Log-rolling show) at the 江東区民祭り?
    I wrote a little bit about it here:


  3. Malco September 5, 2008 at 1:54 pm #

    Thank you for replying me!! I’m really grad to hear something from you!

    I live in seattle for 1year and 2 months and I’m gonna get back Japan
    at the end of this month. I was studying English & business at
    university of washington, but now everything was over, so now I’m
    preparing to go back like packing and so on.
    I’m so happy because you love 富岡八幡宮例大祭。I’m proud of it
    as 地元人.


  4. tokyo5 September 5, 2008 at 12:12 am #


    Thanks for visiting my site and commenting.
    Please visit and comment often!

    >I live in Seattle.

    How long have you lived in America?

    >My hometown is Kiba

    Oh, 木場. I really like 江東区民祭り! I go to that festival every year.

    >I’m really familiar with 富岡八幡例大祭.

    It was a great festival, too!

    >I enjoyed reading your blog.

    Thank you. Please visit (and comment) often as you like.

    >Actually I really wanted to participate this festival, but as i wrote before, it was impossible.

    When will you return to Japan?

    >I’m sorry for my poor english…

    No. Your English is excellent.

    >I’m studying english now

    In college?

    >it could be not clear to understand 😦

    Your comment is very easy to understand!


  5. Malco September 4, 2008 at 1:24 pm #

    It is first time to leave comment to you. My name is Malco and now I live
    in Seattle. My hometown is Kiba, so I’m really familiar with 富岡八幡例大祭.
    I enjoyed reading your blog. Actually I really wanted to participate
    this festival, but as i wrote before, it was impossible. I could feel
    atmosphere of festival and homesick!!
    Anyway, I’m really grad to read this blog! Thanks a lot!
    Also, I’m sorry for my poor english… I’m studying english now, so
    it could be not clear to understand:(


  6. tokyo5 August 20, 2008 at 11:59 pm #

    When it’s not the 本祭り (full-festival), there’s less people involved and they don’t go the whole course.


  7. rzapanta August 20, 2008 at 11:36 pm #

    What’s a “non-full” festival like? What’s different from the big, full festival which occurs only every 3 years (sounds like the Olympics)?


  8. tokyo5 August 20, 2008 at 3:30 pm #

    In all 神輿 (portable shrine) festivals in Japan (including this one), there’s a smaller shrine that kids carry.


  9. Akiyo Horiguchi August 20, 2008 at 4:44 am #

    I’m taking your “feel free to comment” invitation. 🙂

    I remember doing a mock mini-version of this at my elementary school’s annual multi-cultural festival. Of course, we had a light fake shrine, as we were a bunch of 9-year-olds.


  10. tokyo5 August 19, 2008 at 10:36 pm #

    >I think I saw you!

    It’s possible. I can be spotted for a second in a couple of those videos.
    The ones that show me for a long time I left offline, though.

    >2 tons?! You must be wiped out. That is really something to never forget, though. So you’re going back in 2011? Looks like fun!

    Yes, it was heavy…but a good time! And yes, I plan to do it again in three years (the next “full” festival).


  11. Mb August 19, 2008 at 10:16 pm #

    I think I saw you! =P Wow, 2 tons?! You must be wiped out. That is really something to never forget, though. So you’re going back in 2011? Looks like fun!


  12. rzapanta August 18, 2008 at 9:54 pm #

    >> Too bad there was no sound on the videos as I would have loved to hear, especially the drum video.

    I take this back, looks like I had a Firefox browser issue, just restarted and there is indeed sound in the videos so I am now re-watching some of them.


  13. tokyo5 August 18, 2008 at 9:50 pm #


    Thanks for commenting.

    >Maybe next year.

    You should. But it won’t be the big version again til 2011!

    >Too bad there was no sound on the videos

    But there IS sound! Turn up the volume on the YouTube screen.
    Let me know if you still can’t hear anything…(I don’t know what the problem would be, though—I can hear them on my machine).


  14. rzapanta August 18, 2008 at 9:43 pm #

    Thanks for sharing – it was almost like being there. Actually, I almost went there, but was still tired after my vacation (need a vacation after my vacation 🙂 and it was also raining so I decided to stay home. Maybe next year.

    Yes, I did watch all 12 videos and your slideshow – I was looking for a gaijin, but didn’t spot you, all you guys were wearing the same outfit which makes it tougher. Too bad there was no sound on the videos as I would have loved to hear, especially the drum video.

    Now I know why it was so tiring – you are nuts lifting and dropping the sne when water is sprayed, plus the crazy dancing moves holding the heavy shrine. But seriously, it looks like fun and I am sure was a super experience for you.

    PS. I am with you about keeping pictures showing you or your family private – I do the same thing on my public blog, but I do share family pictures on Facebook, restricted to “friends only” so I do know who has access and have some control.


  15. tokyo5 August 18, 2008 at 8:29 pm #

    Did you watch all twelve videos? And all 40 or so pictures in the slideshow?

    You can’t see me well in any of these photos or videos because I don’t like to have me or my family’s photos online…but I was in that group.

    (I have more pics and videos that my wife took that show me (and my kids throwing water)…but those will stay “offline” 😉 ).


    • Mom August 17, 2012 at 2:38 pm #

      WOW!! That is very impressive. I don’t know how you were able to carry that portable shrine for 9 (?) hrs, esp when water was being thrown on you! it’s no wonder you had aches and pains after the event. can you pls email us the photos that show where you were? we would love to see them. why do they throw water on the men who carry the shrine?


      • tokyo5 August 17, 2012 at 2:48 pm #

        This post is from the 2008 festival… I’ll write a post about last weekend’s festival soon. And, sure, I’ll email some photos to you soon.

        And water is thrown on the shrine and carriers to purify the shrine and to cool the carriers too … also because it’s fun!


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