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Natsumoude at Asakusa Jinja

On Wednesday, I spent the day volunteering to help out with Natsumoude at Asakusa Jinja again. This is an annual event, running from July 1st to July 7th, and it was started at Asakusa Jinja ten years ago. This year, Asakusa Jinja is aware of 429 jinja and 22 Buddhist temples that are participating. It is growing, and likely to continue to do so.

My duties were defined as in previous years: standing in the main information tent, selling tanzaku on which to write Tanabata wishes, and answering queries. There was, however, a very noticeable difference from last year and the year before: there were lots of foreign tourists. Most of them were from Asia, but you could spot some of them, because they were wearing kimono or yukata. (There are places in Asakusa that rent out kimono and yukata in which to walk around the area, and most of the customers are foreign tourists — although not quite all.) With the others, it was often not clear until they spoke. I had to do a lot more English than in previous years, and I suspect that this is, really, back to “normal”. Asaskusa Jinja is, after all, in the heart of one of the main tourist areas of Tokyo. While I wouldn’t recommend visiting Japan in early July (too hot and rainy), I think Asakusa Jinja is well worth the trip if you are here in the first week of the month.

There were quite a few Japanese people who spotted that we were selling tanzaku, and came over to get them. Foreign tourists were generally less enthusiastic, probably because they didn’t have the faintest idea what was going on. (You write your wish on a long and thin rectangular piece of paper, and then hang it on a bamboo branch. It’s an old tradition for Tanabata, July 7th.) I think a little more English explanation might be helpful, because a wide range of the foreign tourists had at least some English. (I started quite a lot of conversations with “English?”, and got a response of a relieved “Yes!”.)

The jinja also had a special goshuin (red seal) for this year’s natsumoude. As you can see in the pictures, it is very pretty, with folding paper cut in the shape of the jinja’s mon (badge) and a bamboo grove, over the jinja name, seal, and date. As with last year’s version, it is also notable that there is no red involved. This is a little odd, but it does look good.

The volunteers all got a “goody bag”, and one of the things in mine was a book for goshuin, a goshuinchō, with a cover in very deep blue with silver designs. I think it may be the coolest goshuinchō I’ve seen yet.

The event is still developing year by year, and seems to be a big success for Asakusa Jinja, at least. I may be talking to the chief priest, Revd Haji, about improving the foreign language provision for next year, in which case that will be another way in which it develops.

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2 thoughts on “Natsumoude at Asakusa Jinja”

  1. That is super cool! If I were there, I’d be very grateful for your service. I appreciate everything you’re doing for us, sir.

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