Updated: March 29, 2019
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Kurayami Matsuri in Fuchu, the Breathtaking "Darkness Festival"

Kurayami Matsuri is one of the oldest festivals in Tokyo, held for seven days from April 30th to May 6th. The main events are celebrated at night, making it an other-worldly experience.

Apr 30, 2019(Tue) - May 05, 2019(Sun)
Okunitama Shrine
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Kurayami Matsuri

Kurayami Matsuri takes place in Fuchu, a city located in western Tokyo and is a celebration unlike any other.
Fuchu is the home of the ancient Okunitama Shrine, said to date back to the year 111, when it was established by Emperor Keiko and when Fuchu was the government seat of the old Musashi Province.
The festival is comprised of different events each day, with floaters, giant taiko drums, dances and processions carrying the mikoshi (portable shrines) around the shrine.

What sets it apart from other matsuri is its history. Originally, the Mikoshi procession was held at midnight, with the town extinguishing all forms of light. It was believed that sacred things should not be seen directly, therefore in the darkness, humans couldn't see the god’s divine spirit being transferred from the shrine to the Mikoshi and transported to the Otabisho (their one-night resting place).
The festival kicks off on April 30, with the priests and those who will participate in the festival cleansing themselves with water from the Shinagawa River.

On May 1st, prayers are offered in the morning in Okunitama Shrine for dry weather and safety during the festival.

On May 2nd, the mikoshi are prepared for the procession. Eight mirrors that are used on the portable shrines are cleansed with salt, for it is believed that the mirror reflects not only your physical self, but the spirit within, and so by cleansing the mirrors you are also cleansing those that will carry the Mikoshi.
May 3rd is a special day. Between 6 pm and 8 pm, eight floats parade along the street, featuring musicians and comical dancers. The musicians play bamboo flute, shime-daiko and the gigantic taiko drums.
As if this wasn't already a full spectacle, at 8 pm, a horse procession called komakurabe whereby the speed, prowess, and obedience of the horse is displayed. Six horses make 3 round trips up the 150 meter stretch of road.
May 4th is the first full day of the festival. Processions take place from early in the morning.
At 12:30 pm there is a colorful and thrilling, one-hour long lantern-themed flower performance called Manto Taikai. Not only is it a performance, but also a competition among the neighborhoods in Fuchu of who can wave the massive (more than 50 kg) Manto (paper decorated poles) the most gracefully. Later on, there is a colorful parade of all beautifully decorated Manto poles and the winning one receives the prize.
May 5th, the final day of the matsuri, starts in the morning, but the culmination of this mesmerizing celebration happens from 6 pm, with the launch of fireworks while six of Japan’s biggest drums are beaten to reverberate like thunders and underground rumbling. Then, led by the drums and lantern lights, eight portable shrines emerge from the main shrine. Each one of them carries a different deity enshrined at the shrines in the old Musashi Province. The festivities end at 4 am, when the Mikoshi are returned to the shrine.

Kurayami Matsuri is not only one of the oldest festivals in Japan, it is also one of the most thrilling and beautiful. A must-see if you're in Tokyo!

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