One of the many festivals that take place in Japan with great splendour is the Hanazono Shrine festival, a Shinto shrine located in Shinjuku, a special ward in Tokyo.
Hanazono Shrine was established in the 17th century, during the early Edo period reign. The structure incurred several damages due to the World War and has been through a number of revamping over the years.
In Japanese, Hanazono literally means Flower garden. The land surrounding Hanazono Shrine was once part of the Imperial Gardens, and around the 1840s the fields surrounding the shrine were famous for growing bell peppers and squash.
The Hanazono Shrine festival is held in the last week of May and is quite famous for the mikoshi parade (portable shrine) weighing 1.5 ton which is taken on a tour in the surrounding neighbourhood.
The shrine has a deep connection with the entertainment industry which began in the Edo period when the Hanazono shrine set up a huge stage on the grounds to host plays and dances. You can find the names of many performers and entertainers who have worshipped at the shrine that are hung on boards around it. You can also witness live performances and plays that are staged on the ground even now.
Believed to bring luck and prosperity, the shrine is thronged by people from the entertainment industry even to this day and many singers and famous actors are seen paying their respects as a token of gratitude for their successful career.
As you enter the temple through the main gate you will see people making a wish by throwing a coin in the contribution box and pulling the rope to ring the bell, followed by clapping their hands twice which is known to bring good luck and fortune.
The temple although is inconspicuous, to the west of Kabukicho, is easier to find with all the bustling crowd of the market and the aroma of good food that wafts through the air and beckons the visitor. In fact, it is hard to believe that a temple with such peaceful surroundings (apart from the days when the festival is held) exists beside a busy metropolis.
If you walk down the left hand side of the shrine, you will find a set of steps leading out of the complex which takes you to the entrance of Shinjuku’s Golden Gai area making way for small laneways lined with bars and restaurants.
A number of important festivals are celebrated at Hanazono Shrine throughout the year including New Year’s Day prayers on 1st January, Setsubun Festival and Two Horse Festival in February, Festival Koxinga in March, Flower Festival in April, Shinto Purification in June and the Clock Festival in November.
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