The lure of the lanterns on the day of the chicken aka the rooster

Lured by the lanterns. So precioooous!

WALK here, take this path, been here, left, right. It has been hours of wandering knowing not if I had strayed off Shinjuku. I didn’t really care, the aim was to get lost. I found myself in dimly lit alleys nary a soul and bright streets teeming with blond out-of-bed coifed club barkers in fitted suits enticing the locals garbed in “only the Japanese can get away with” ensemble. Was this a music video?

If it was, then the ramen house comical chicken episode was a good one. Posted in You Tube, I could easily have a million hits and be Oprah’s next discovery. Let me tell you though, that wasn’t a coincidence, I never believed in coincidences. The act came as a prologue to a bigger chicken event.

Octopus shop

It all started with an intriguing bustle at some street- smoke in the air, rows of stalls vending grilled fare, diners on makeshift resto along the path flowing with people. I moved with it, followed their lead, went up a flight of stairs and was greeted with a striking sight– hundreds of lanterns!

For sure, this was some kind of festival. Throngs of Japanese were lining up to ring a giant bell, more stalls selling food, and interesting embellished bamboo implements that looked like wall decors that everyone had to have. The Japanese held it with both hands, raised it high and bowed before the wall of lantern’s direction. I tried asking a few locals what this fair was but the language barrier made acquiring any information futile. Web time when I get back.

Apparently, the night led me to the chicken’s second coming.

The fair I walked into was in the Hanazono-jinja Shrine off the bustling Kabukichu district in Shinjuku. Established in the Edo Period, this Shinto shrine is regarded as the protector of the ward and a place of worship for the businessmen for it is believed to bring them prosperity.

one of the shrine entrances

This venerable place is a popular spot to relax and rejuvenate amidst the bustling city life. But what attracts most of the Japanese to come and visit is when it turns bright and lively during the open-air celebration of the   Tori no Ichi Fair.

Tori is chicken in Japanese.

Or in this case, a rooster. Lucky me, I walked in the Hanazono-jinja Shrine on the Day of the Rooster and this famous festival, Tori no Ichi, an event held every November since the Edo Period. It explained the presence of the throngs of Japanese. The young and old came to pray for good health, good fortune and good business.

The bamboo implements were the event’s specials. They call it the kumade, the elaborately decorated ornamental bamboo rakes, to rake in good luck and prosperity. I heard they had to change to a bigger bamboo rake every year thereafter. So, I wanted to know if the oldest person in Japan is into the kumade.

The kumade, from the simple to the elaborate.

Two Tori encounters in a single night. Wait ‘til you hear about the third.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on June 23, 2011.



Food stalls at the Tori no Ichi Festival


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