Shinto shrines can be found everywhere in Japan. Some, of course, are large and grand like the famous Meiji Jingu in central Tokyo, but many more are small, simple structures — especially so outside the big cities. And yet while they are all unique, I’ve never seen one quite like this before, or at least not one with such incredibly striking torii gates.
Rainy season, it has to be said, isn’t the nicest time of year. The humidity ramps up enormously, and, as the name suggests, it tends to rain rather a lot. Yet despite such unpleasantness, June is a popular month to get married in, and probably just as popular as a venue is Tokyo’s Meiji Shrine. A money making machine that at the weekend sees up to around 15 weddings in a single day.
Given the surroundings and the ceremonial outfits, the public procession element of each service is quite the spectacle. An aspect that used to garner a huge amount of attention due to the shrine being a popular tourist spot, but it was just me and a young family watching on Saturday. One of the many very visible changes of the world we now live in. A new world in which this young couple are starting a new life in. But it’s a journey they are embarking on together, and one that started out in some style to say the least.
Traditional Japanese festivals are always worth seeing as there’s a unique energy that makes each and every one of them enjoyable. But for those involved, the effort to create that dynamic can clearly be exhausting.
On February 11th, which is National Foundation Day, several groups from the far right pay their respects at Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine with a parade of sorts and an official Shinto service. By far the most significant gathering, at least in terms of numbers anyway, is the troop pictured below. A ragtag bunch of characters that I’ve been photographing for quite a few years now — some of the results of which can be seen here.
And this Monday, as ever, was no different, with the same flags, and to be fair, the same respectful solemnity. There were several of the same old faces too. The overall number of participants, on the other hand, was very noticeably down. Now whether that is significant or not I really don’t know, but for a date and event that is clearly so important, it seems an odd one to miss.
An outbreak of flu perhaps, or maybe even an outbreak of common sense? A mystery that might be a little clearer next year. But until then, here are just a few photos from an especially cold and grey day.