Kagurazaka FestivalJul 22nd, 2009 | By Shane Sakata | Category: Festivals, Tokyo and Vicinity
In the center of the Tokyo’s Yamanote line you will find Kagurazaka Slope, an area that was once just beyond the walls of the imperial palace grounds, and where artists, politicians and Geisha once mingled.
The name Kagurazaka is a combination of kagura (a shrine-dance to music) and saka (hill) and evokes the sites and topography of this beautiful part of Tokyo. The layout of the area is much the same as it was when the town was built in the 17th century despite the fact that most of the area was burned down as the result of an air raid on Tokyo in 1920.
The annual Kagurazaka festival takes place each July and features a Hozuki Ichi (Ground Cherry Pod Fair) and parades featuring Awa Odori folk dancers. This years festival takes place from July 22nd through the 25th and it’s a great opportunity to explore the area.
Festival events are schedule in the evening so head out early and explore the cobblestone alleyways and shops of this area where Karyukai, or Geisha culture, was born. In 1910 there were as many as 600 Geishas who made the area home and a few Ryotei (Geisha houses) still operate in the area. The Shinjuku City Tourism Association offers a great guide to Kagurazaka with some photos and history of the various points of interest. Also, be sure to ask an area vendor for a copy of the Walking Guide for Kagurazawa.
Awa Odori on Kagurazaka Slope
The highlight of the festival is the Awa odori, a local bon dance from Tokushima Prefecture featuring fifteen dance troupes parading down Kagurazaka Dori from 7-9PM on July 24th & 25th. (Kagurazaka Festival Map)
The area around the Bishamonten Zenkokuji Temple hosts the Hozuki Ichi (Ground Cherry Pod Fair) on July 22nd & 23rd from 5-10PM. Enjoy the beer garden and consider taking advantage of the yukata (summer cotton kimono) dress up service so you can strolling through the area like a local.
Kagurazaka is conveniently located and accessible from the JR IIdabashi station on the Yamanote Line. As you exit the station, turn to your right and a one minute walk will place you at the base of Kagurazaka-dori. Tokyo Metro Iidabashi and Ushigome-Kagurazaka stations also provide access to the area.
If you plan on attending the festival with children you will find the tips and advice in Take your Kids to a Festival in Japan helpful.