The festival I am going to introduce today is, of all things, a festival for shoes! This festival has been held since 1974 at the Tamahime Inari Shrine in Tokyo's Taito Ward.
Once a thriving rice farming location, the area later grew into a place where many shoemakers gathered. Taking inspiration from the Niinamesai harvest festival, which expresses thanks for an abundant rice crop, local shoemakers began their own festival to thank the patron god of the Tamahime Inari Shrine for their livelihood in the shoemaking businesses. That was the beginning of the Kutsu no Megumi Shoe Festival or "Shoe Blessing Festival." The festival features various shoe-related events held over a two-day period.
Expressing gratitude to locals that support their shoe businesses, around 30 Asakusa shoemakers offer over 100,000 pairs of shoes as well as other leather products at low prices. Offerings are of high quality and come in a wide variety, ranging from up-and-coming shoes for men and women to casual sneakers and slippers.
The festival also features a memorial service where old shoes are burned and prayers are given for the health of people's legs and feet. When I first heard about this memorial service, I felt it was based on a very Japanese way of thinking. Japan's Shinto religion, which has been passed down since ancient times, is characterized by animism, which recognizes the existence of gods and the sacred in animals, plants, and even non-living things such as rocks and waterfalls.
The festival has many other shoe-themed events as well, such as the carrying of shrines with a shoe enshrined in each of them and the Japan Shoes Best Dresser awards, which selects those who look best in leather shoes.
* This year's festival will be held on November 28th (Sat) and 29th (Sun).
* Please see the official website for more information.