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My first Mitama Festival at Yasukuni Shrine

In 2016, I went to my first Mitama Festival at Yasukuni Shrine.  It was very impressive.  As Yasukuni is dedicated to those who died defending Japan, the festival is in their honor.  And many people turn out to remember them.  I can only say it is an experience.  Without a doubt, it is one of the great summer events in Tokyo.

people walking past Mitama Festival torii gate and lanterns
It’s early in the afternoon and a fair-sized crowd is starting to gather.
portable shrine and people under torii gate
When the event started, it was people for as far as the eye could see.

The Mitama is one of those festivals that you should visit at least once in your lifetime.  At night thirty thousand giant lanterns cast a surreal light over the crowd.  People in colorful yukatas are all over the place.  Torii tower over everything.  It is an incredible scene.

person taking cellphone photo of Mitama Festival
A photo of a person taking a photo.
people in kimonos taking pictures in front of lanterns
More photos!

At night the mikoshi (portable shrine) appears.  The people who carry it lift it high before its weight forces it down on their shoulders.  They do it over and over again.  It is hard and tiring, but the crowd urges them on.  There is a short break before everyone heads inside to the main shrine.  I can only describe it as a “crowd experience.”  When you are there, everyone around you is a friend.  


If I had one complaint about the Mitama Festival at Yasukuni, was that there were no yatai (food stalls). They were banned from the festival a few years previously as rubbish had become quite a problem. I missed the food and drink.  But, at least the grounds were immaculate.  And that has probably made the cleaners happy at least!

Mitama Festival worshippers at Yasukuni Shrine
Many people prayed at the shrine.
Mitama Festival giant yellow lanterns
mikoshi near lanterns
The mikoshi is the heart of the festival.
girls taking selfie near lanterns
More photos?
decorated entrance to Yasukuni Shrine
The decorated main entrance.

If you are ever in Tokyo during summer, this festival should be on your bucket list. It is a lot of fun. The festival is held from July 13 to 16 each year, with events going from morning till night. Hopefully, I’ll be able to attend it during the daytime too one year. For those wanting to learn more about Yasukuni shrine, click here.

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  1. Pingback: Yasukuni Shrine - a beautiful shrine for Japan's war dead - Tokyo in Pics

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