Bringing People Together: Yanaka Matsuri



2021.10.14 (Thu)

By Charlotte, long-term Tokyo resident & history-loving traveler

The Yanaka area in Taito City, is the perfect place to go for a stroll this time of year, when the weather is pleasantly cool. The streets are filled with numerous temples, townhouses, old wooden buildings, and other picturesque architecture, giving a strong impression of Japan's past. Some of the oldest buildings are said to date as far back as the time when samurai were active, the Edo period (1603 - 1868). Within this retro area, there are a variety of shops to visit as well, such as handicraft stores with a long history, cafes inside renovated old houses, and art galleries. This area is conveniently located just a short distance from Nippori Station on the JR Yamanote Line, and it's an ideal place to relax and get away from the bustle of the big city.

Yanaka is also where the "Yanaka Matsuri" festival is held every year in mid-October, and the local residents are at the core of the event. Every year, numerous visitors come to see the festivities (however, this year's festival is canceled due to the COVID-19). At the disaster prevention plaza which is the main venue, "Hatsune no Mori," there are a variety of things to see, such as live music from the brass bands of local elementary and middle schools playing music, performances by popular heroes from TV shows, food stalls set up by the town council, and exhibitions by sister cities in tents. There are also stage events and other festivities at sub-venues dotted around the area such as Yanaka Elementary School and the Former Yoshidaya Liquor Store. In addition, there is a stamp rally with spots all over Yanaka, and collecting these stamps is a great way to stroll through the area and explore its abundant charm and appeal.

Connections within regional communities are said to be growing weaker in the modern era. However, Yanaka Matsuri is an event where you can see a community gathering together and working to build up excitement. It's a first-hand experience with this kind of human connection. For this reason, the event is not only ideal for a sightseeing trip to Yanaka but also a wonderful opportunity to experience a sense of regional solidarity, and I hope it will be held again next year.

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