Meiji Shrine Spring Grand Festival

The Meiji Shrine Spring Grand Festival is a vibrant and significant event that takes place annually at the Meiji Shrine, one of Tokyo’s most famous Shinto shrines, dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his consort, Empress Shoken. Located in Shibuya, near Harajuku Station and Yoyogi Park, the shrine is surrounded by a lush forest, offering a peaceful retreat from the city’s hustle.

This festival, held in late April to early May, celebrates the rich cultural heritage of Japan through traditional performances and rituals. It’s a chance to see classical arts like Noh and Kyogen (comic theater), traditional Japanese dance, and music performances, including ancient court music known as gagaku. The festivities also include demonstrations of Japanese archery (kyudo) and swordsmanship (iaido)

A lesser-known fact about the Meiji Shrine Spring Grand Festival is its connection to the natural world. The festival coincides with the blooming season, celebrating the beauty of spring and the renewal it brings.

Schedule

April 30th (Sunday)

11:00 AM – Bugaku Performance on the Shinto Stage

  • Furihoko – A dance symbolizing victory and homage to the gods, accompanied by flutes, drums, and gongs.
  • Kadono – A dance created from music and biwa lessons learned in the Tang Dynasty, symbolizing cultural exchange and artistic heritage.
  • Suriko – A masked dance, where the dancer wears a zomen and performs with elegance, ending in silent descent from the stage.
  • Nagayoko – A musical piece representing celebrations, played at the end of bugaku performances without a dance.

May 2nd (Tuesday)

11:45 AM: Noh and Kyogen Performances on the Shinto Stage

  • Kochō – A Noh play about a monk experiencing the spirit of a butterfly among plum blossoms.
  • Akubo – A Kyogen comedy involving a monk, a drunk man, and a misunderstanding leading to panic.

3:45 PM: Japanese Music and Dance Performance in Front of the Shrine

  • Oimatsu – A Nagauta piece expressing the beauty of pine trees, requiring great skill in both dancing and performance.
  • Hogo – A Nagauta piece celebrating the mythical mountain of immortality, showcasing elegance and splendor.

May 3rd (Wednesday/Holiday)

9:00 AM: Meiji Shrine Dedication Distance Kyudo Tournament at Shiseikan 2nd Kyudo Range

11:30 AM: Local Performing Arts on a Special Stage in Front of the Second Torii Gate. Featuring Japanese drums and the Kawagoe Hikawa Festival float event.

Noon: Three Songs Performance on the Shinto Stage

  • Kinko-ryu Shakuhachi “Azuma’s Song” – A piece expressing longing for the land of Azuma.
  • Ikuta style koto piece “Meiji Shochikubai” – A koto music piece celebrating imperial poems and the New Year.

2:30 PM: Satsuma Biwa Performance on the Shinto Stage

  • Okusunoki – A piece telling the story of Masashige Kusunoki’s final days, loyal to Emperor Go-Daigo.

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