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Okunitama Shrine’s 2023 Tori-no-Ichi festival
Okunitama Shrine’s 2023 Tori-no-Ichi festival gave me more than I expected. It wasn’t a one-dimensional event. From the moment I walked in until I left it gave me surprise after surprise. Honestly, I got a few photos I wasn’t expecting. Other than some technical problems, it was a great night.
What is Okunitama Shrine's 2023 Tori-no-Ichi festival?
The festival originated in the mid-18th century as a thanksgiving ritual for farmers. They would present a chicken to the shrine. While doing that, they would have a market to sell their goods and produce to pay off debts. Eventually, merchants joined in to pray for business success for the following year.
So, in that respect, it’s not unique. Okunitama Shrine’s 2023 Tori-no-Ichi festival was like many others. Yep, it is celebrated all over Japan. I’ve been to another at Hanazono Shrine in Shinjuku. Another famous one is in Asakusa. It happens in November.
Is Okunitama Shrine’s festival the same as Hanazono’s?
The two are basically the same. People go to buy the kumade (good luck rakes) at both shrines. There is one main difference. That is the number of people who attend them.
Okunitama Shrine seems to have fewer people. And that is good! If you go there to buy a kumade, it’ll be a far more relaxing experience.
What was surprising at Okunitama Shrine’s Tori-no-Ichi Festival?
Even entering the shrine was cool. If you don’t know, Okunitama has a long path from the entrance to the main worship hall. Sets of lanterns hung over it every few meters. And on either side were plenty of food stalls. You can’t get more Japanese festival-ish than that!
On the night, I got to see:
- Sales of the kumade and the staff performances when passing them to the buyer
- Noh performance
- Lots of festival food
Chrysanthemums at a Tori-no-Ichi event? Does any other shrine do that? Unfortunately, the flowers had no direct lights on them. That was a pity. My photos of them used high ISO and post-processing.
And there was a Noh performance! That also surprised me. I didn’t expect to see it at all. Once again, it was a little difficult to photograph as there wasn’t much light. Once again, high ISO and post-processing got me useable photos.
There was a lot of food. From taiyaki to fairy floss and takoyaki, you could get it. It was extremely good and tasty.
How was the photography at the festival?
Photography was a little difficult for Okunitama Shrine’s 2023 Tori-no-Ichi festival. This time I shot with the 16-55 mm f/2.8. It’s not quite as good for night photography as the Fujifilm 35 mm f/2.0 which I used at Hanazono in 2022.
With its faster aperture, I could have used a faster shutter speed or lower ISO. Why didn’t I use it? I don’t know. We’ll have to put it down as a brain meltdown. With a lot of grain and blur in some photos, it was a regrettable choice.
Okunitama Shrine’s 2023 Tori-no-Ichi festival was fun. It gets the nod from me over the one at Hanazono. As a photographer, crowds can be good, but I also enjoy taking my photos at a leisurely pace.
And having the chrysanthemums and Noh performance was a real bonus. A little more light on them would have been nice though. Still, they were a pleasure to see.
Have you been to Okunitama Shrine? If you have, let me know. I’d love to hear from you.
What camera gear did I use for Tori-no-Ichi 2023?
Camera body: Fujifilm X-T3
Lens: Fujifilm XF 16-55 mm f/2.8
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