Photo: Geoff Day

Shinagawa Culture: Shrine Dance 2017

Culture performances in Shinagawa Tokyo

Japan Travel   - 4 min read
Venue : Shinagawa When : Sunday - Jul 23rd 2017, 9:30am - 4:30pm

Shinagawa is one of Tokyo’s largest hubs and has a history deeply rooted in culture. During the Edo period, Shinagawa was the first of over fifty stations of the Tokaido, a route that travelers would take from Tokyo to Kyoto. In addition to maintaining itself as a transportation hub with shinkansen and airport access, Shinagawa has established itself as a center for traditional Japanese cultural experiences.

This year Shinagawa collaborated with numerous local partners and tourist associations (including Japan Travel) to create and host the very first “Shinagawa Culture Event”. Local culture experts, artists, masters and volunteers welcomed people from all over the world to an event with activities as diverse as the participants nationalities.

The Shinagawa Culture Event had four different cultural experiences hosted twice each throughout the morning and afternoon.

Course 2

The second course was set completely in the Kamishinmeitenso Shrine area and included a purification ritual, shrine maiden dance, shaved ice making, cotton candy creation, and a Koto instrumental performance. Activities included the following:

Shrine Purification / Shrine Priestess Dance

We were brought to and seated within the main building of the Kamishinmeitenso Shrine. Within the shrine, we listened to the priest as he explained the shrine history as each shrine is typically dedicated to certain gods. The priest taught us how to purify our bodies by bowing and brushing a large pole with papers attached behind our heads. We took a branch offering and placed in on the dais while paying our respects to the shrine. Once we placed our branches, the shrine maiden came out in formal wear and danced to the gods to make sure our wishes were heard. Here there were unique chances to take photos with the priest and shrine maiden both.

Cotton Candy / Shaved Ice

Next, we went outside the shrine to find a few outdoor stalls setup with sweet smells. As we ventured closer, we could see that we would have the chance to make our own cotton candy. This is done with a traditional festival machine that places crystallized sugar inside as you wrap the candy around in a twisting motion. The texture was soft and airy and the taste delicious! Right next door was a kakigori (shaved ice) machine which used a traditional method of shaving directly into enormous ice blocks. Once we had enough ice in our cups, we could choose our flavoring from multiple selections. We enjoyed out sugary snacks outside on the shrine grounds before starting the next activity.

Koto Performance

The final destination placed us at the Kamishinmeitenso Shrine to attend a koto performance. The performance was held in an open hall building next to the main shrine building with tatami flooring. Koto is a Traditional 13 string instrument made of a very long piece of kiri wood and played using 3 finger picks where small wooden blocks are used for tuning. The tuning is carefully reset for each performance in a graceful manner. I was in awe throughout the whole performance. The performer was completely immersed in her songs and her flair and elegance in strumming was through the roof.

As we sat down on cushions during the performance, we were served a wagashi sweet dessert and tea. The wagashi was made from azuki beans into a rectangular hard jelly dessert wrapped with leaves. It is evident that delicate craftsmanship and design has been placed into each wagashi, showing the pride of the creator and their attention to details.

The activities were hosted on the traditional streets of Shinagawa. The central gathering point was the Kamishinmeitenso Shrine where several events were hosted both within the shrine and in neighboring buildings. Shinagawa’s local mascot Cinnamoroll, ( a Sanrio character, was also there to make an appearance to welcome the group and play with the kids.

The Shinagawa Culture Event provided tourists, foreign residents, and even local Japanese an opportunity to see and partake in traditional activities and performances. These exclusive experiences (many performed for the first time in Shinagawa) may soon be available to all so be on the lookout for culture events and activities via Shinagawa and Japan Travel.

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