Every year in late August, the parishioners of Anamori Inari Shrine In Ota City join the priests and their attendants to light handmade lanterns, asking Inari-sama, the god of rice, for the granting of wishes.
The lanterns which bear images made by children and adults alike, are set up the day of the festival. Illustrations of kabuki actors and interpretations of ukiyo-e prints hang next to popular characters and naive landscape paintings.
Parishioners and visitors gather around sunset for a Shinto ceremony in the sanctuary before the lantern lighting. The female shrine attendants in red hakama trousers and local elders distribute candles to each person and direct them to make their wish at the opened sanctuary. One by one, each person takes a turn to light the 300 or so lanterns.
Despite being part of vast urban Tokyo, the festival has a hometown feeling, and the parishioners welcome everybody to join the festivities. Just like any small neighborhood festival, the evening is whiled away with children’s dance performances to pop music followed by more traditional drumming and dancing. And eating. Stay around a while and have yakisoba and drinks at the food stalls.
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You will see many of my stories on Japan Travel are about places and events outside of big city centers and tourist destinations. While I highly recommend the big name sights and experiences, I encourage visitors to see and feel the atmosphere off the beaten path, too.