Japan With Kids - Kishibojin: Oeshiki Matsuri (Zoshigaya, Tokyo)
Researched and photographed by Cornelia [2 October 2007]

Balancing Lantern Toshima City in Tokyo is where the annual Oeshiki Matsuri at Zoshigaya/Kishibojin takes place. It is a three night affair, on October 16, 17 and 18, every year.

It is a wonderful festival with the parades taking place at night, starting at 19:00 or 19:30 depending on the day, and finishing about 22:00. Night is necessary because the highlight is the procession of giant lanterns. The route makes a circle including part of Meiji-dori, and Meijiro-dori before coming back to the temple grounds, finally squeezing their way through the throngs of people and the many, many stalls (yatai) selling okonomiyaki, doner kabobs, grilled chicken, baked potatos, yakisoba, grilled beef cubes, seafood, corn-on-the-cob, candy and more. There is another section closer to the temple where the games are. There is even a show with the snake-eating woman (cost 500yen).

Within the lantern wielding groups (a group is called a Kou) you will see all ages, from tiny tikes riding on their parent's shoulders to the elderly. The atmosphere is infectuous. The young bachelors and teenagers put on a great show, playing Matoi, dancing with a smaller white paper immitation lantern with long streamers, and competing to see who can twist, turn, dip and swing with the most enthusiasm.

The men are in charge of carrying the lanterns in a body sling, and they too are encouraged to bounce the lanturns without losing control of them. The hand drums are deafening. The energy is pervasive, and of course there is sake and beer widely available. Some Kou mount their lantern on a Mantou if they do not have the manpower to carry it.

Oeshiki Festival
The groups come from all over Tokyo. Since this festival often falls in the middle of the week, one imagines that many use their precious personal holidays to be able to participate.

Oddly, the festival commemorates a death, the death of Nichiren, a buddhist teacher. Though his death was in Autumn, it is said that the cherry trees were blossoming. So the lanterns are decorated with large tissue blossoms.

To get there you can walk from Ikeubukuro station, which is better known to foreign visitors. However, the best approach is from the Kishibojin tram stop. The tram runs from Waseda, crosses the Yamanote line at Otsuka station and crosses the JR again at Oji station. It also crosses the Yurakucho subway line at HigashiIkebukuro station, and the Mita subway line at NishiSugamo station.

Here is a map, with the parade routes. It is not precisely to scale, but it is accurate.

Boy playing Matoi
Boys with Handdrums

Boy Playing Matoi

Man Carrying Lantern

Boys with Handdrums

Related links and information:

Kishimojin Temple Official Web Site - includes events page, map, etc. (Japanese only)

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