After spending a year (almost) in Toronto, there's nothing that excites me more than seeing my old high school friends since I came back to Tokyo. Today I got to see one of my best friends, Abi. He was my rock in high school, and he continues to be up to this day. He's ever so dependable and supportive, never drags me down, and is always there to get me back on my feet whenever I'm feeling down.
You know someone's your best friend when nothing changes even after months of not seeing and talking to each other.
We decided to hang out in Shinjuku, but didn't really plan out what we were going to do there. Luckily, we passed by Hanazono Shrine, and there was a Shinkosai going on. Shinkosai is the festival that celebrates the temporary transfer of a palaquin away from its shrine.
When festivals like these start to appear, that's when you know summer has come. :)
Gotta love Japanese street food!
金魚すくい (kingyo-sukui), or goldfish scooping! It's a traditional Japanese game in which a player scoops as many goldfish as they can with a special scooper called poi, and it is usually made out of paper. Imagine how hard that is!
This stall, however, was special as they allowed customers to scoop goldfish with a net.
This brought back memories I also used to play this game as a child.
This guy was making animals out of candy. With intricate designs!
Yakitori stands are always the best. Feels like summer!
御神籤 (o-mikuji), or fortune-telling paper strips. They are usually received by making a small offering (like a 5-yen coin) and randomly choosing one from a box. The o-mikuji predicts the person's chances of their hopes coming true, or finding a good match, or general matters of health, fortune, life, etc. When the prediction is bad, it is a custom to tie the strip to a pine tree to leave the bad fortune behind.
Luigis at a sacred shrine?
Only such a thing can happen in Japan.
絵馬 (ema), or wooden wishing plaques. Ema consists of two Kanji characters: 絵 (picture) and 馬 (horse). Horses were seen as the "vehicles of gods" and people used to donate horses to shrines so that the gods would more likely grant their wishes and prayers. However, horses were expensive so people who couldn't afford them donated wooden horse figurines instead. And that became the birth of these ema's. These plaques can be purchased at small booths usually near where ema stands are located.
At the offering hall, you throw a coin at the offering box, bow deeply twice, clap twice, and bow deeply once more and pray for a few seconds.
Just had to take this candid shot of Abi.
Abi was craving for candy apples so we stopped by a stall before we left the shrine.
From time to time, it's nice to take a break from the city life and just enjoy the traditional things that Japan has to offer. And this can be easily done as a lot of shrines like Hanazono are located inside of Tokyo. Talk about convenience! Plus, spending it with Abi made it ten times more fun.