Every year on the last weekend in September, Kitashinagawa Shopping Street hosts the Shinagawa Shukuba Festival. The festival features parades consisting of people in colorful and authentic Edo-period clothing.
The first parade, held Saturday afternoon, is for "oiran." Oiran were the female entertainers of the Edo period, and were the predecessors of the geisha. The Oiran on parade wear beautiful and elaborate dresses, as well as very tall "geta" sandals (an extreme predecessor to platform shoes). During the parade, I saw some Oiran riding in rickshaws and others walking with the aid of their retinue of assistants. Although the road is small, there are plenty of room for observers on the parade route and plenty of wonderful photograph opportunities.
The second parade, held on Sunday at noon, consists of more actors in Edo-period costumes. I saw priests, samurai, laborers, women in elaborate kimonos, and even a couple of ninja. After the parade, the actors mingle with the festival-goers--ask nicely and they will be more than happy to pose for a photo with you!
Beyond the parades, there is plenty to do during the festival. Numerous food booths allow you to try delicacies ranging from the traditional (soba noodles, yakkitori, squid-on-a-stick) to more familiar fare (cotton candy, pizza, hot dogs). There are festival games for the kids and street entertainers to watch. I saw acts by street magicians, a monkey trainer, and a comedy duo. And throughout the neighborhood, you can stop and listen to traditional musical performances of taiko drums, flutes, and shamisen. If you get tired of walking around, there are plenty of restaurants in which you can rest and refresh.
The Shinagawa Shukuba Festival is a good time for couples, families, or the lone wanderer. It is easy to reach from Shinagawa train station via the Keikyu line, and two stops (Shimbashi Station) will put you close to the middle of the parade route. If you are in Tokyo during the last week of September, the Shinagawa Shukuba Festival is a must-see!
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