Every fall, shrines across Japan hold Tori no Ichi festivals. Business owners come to these festivals to buy good luck symbols called kumade, which the owners display in their businesses during the coming year. Two weeks ago my friend Chika invited Cy and and I to join her family to see such a festival at the Otori shrine here in Yokohama.
She suggested that we go right after dark, since it’s the most beautiful time to see the kumade stalls. She was right! Each kumade begins with a bamboo rake as its base. Various good luck charms, dolls, and other objects create the beautiful finished decorations. Every time someone bought a kumade the stall owners sang and clapped a song to thank them and wish them luck.
After wandering the crowded streets for a while, we arrived at the shrine itself. People lined up to ring the bell, clap their hands, bow, and say a quick prayer.
We passed a dumpster overflowing with last year’s kumade. I could not imagine throwing away such beautiful works of art, but Chika explained that doing anything else with an old kumade would bring bad luck.
No street fair is complete without games–and food! We wandered for a bit and sampled some of the offerings. After Cy and his friend Matthew tried their luck at a few games, we headed home.