July 16, 2018
Mitama Festival at Yasukuni Shrine
Monday. Holiday in Japan. The Day of the Ocean. The summer heat.
On the TV, it seems that all they have to show is how temperatures all over Japan are skyrocketing, closing to 40 degrees, plus some 50% humidity to help. Some TV guy goes to a public swimming pool and points out some sort of temperature gun to measure the temperature on people. Heads are fully red and that reminds me that I should use a sun umbrella like every old lady does in Japan. But I'm indoors; I'll worry about not having a sun umbrella when I'm suffering outside while the sunblock slides down my face. I pour another glass of water and turn on the AC. I'm trying to save energy (and money), but the fan is just no longer doing it.
My goal today is to go to the Yasukuni Shrine and attend the Mitama Festival, one of the many festivals held at this shrine. Controversial as the shrine is, besides the many tourists expected there, the Japanese extreme right-wing is surely to be there as well.
I have had the chance of visiting this shrine in 2017, and it was a very pleasant and peaceful visit. But on Monday, the wide spaces that lead to the shrine, as well as the surrounding area, was nothing but a pool of sweat, mixed with Japanese and foreigners, although one could hardly tell who the tourists were (we were all, I guess), or should I say, who the outsiders were. We were all mixed. Lots of stands selling beer and food. People walking while taking photos, eating and drinking. As cheap as I am, I didn't dare to buy a beer in there, which was actually cheaper than usual (400 yen), but instead went outside, to a Family Mart to buy myself a happoshu in order to get back to the pool of sweat.
It was on my way to the convenience store that I noticed the vans of the extreme right-wing, but there was no fun going on. They were simply parking outside. No protesting. No megaphones. No nothing (at least at that time). Maybe like me, I was pretty much fascinated with all the lanterns that filled the shrine's area. As it got darker, they were lighted up, and the night was black, yellow, and sweat, such was the mixture of people.
At the shrine, many people were waiting to move closer, throw a coin, bow and pray or pay their respects to those enshrined. The thousands of lanterns everywhere attracted many tourists with their cellphones and my camera. But the best part only started after 18:00. Groups of youngsters carrying omikoshi and chanting crossed the already overcrowded hallways in the direction of the shrine. I could feel my sweat, and I could smell my happoshu which was getting warm by the minute. All around me people taking pictures, omikoshii> holders chanting, police officers shouting on their small megaphones, happoshui> in one hand, getting warmer, camera resting on my neck, gotta take pictures...
Also posted on busy.org.