The festival is usually held around the 15th of August at Tomioka Hachimangu shrine, which is near Monzai-Nakacho station on the Tozai line. Every 3 years they hold a bigger version of the event, with over 120 large and small portable shrines, and over 50 giant palanquins. It's huge, crowded, and a lot of fun.
Another name for the Fukugawa Hachiman Festival is 水掛け祭り (water throwing festival), and the best part of the festival is that you can get soaked! When it's in the high 30s to low 40s with 80% humidity, a cold shower of water feels great!
A priest from the shrine blesses water, which is then sprayed over the teams carrying the massive portable shrines through the streets. Anyone watching from the sidelines tends to get soaked along with shrines.
The year I went was rather cold, so I actually didn't enjoy getting wet, but this year would be a good one to go. My friends in Tokyo have been complaining about the weather for weeks now, so a refreshing shower with 'purified' water sounds perfect!
There are usually events all around the shrine before the parade starts, so I recommend going early and checking things out. We saw some amateur kendo matches, archery, dances, and plays. There were also a lot of good eats, and a LOT of people!
The festival usually starts with some event on the main street. The year I went they had these awesome taiko drummers doing a show.
When the actual parade started, there were a few groups of neighbourhood oba-sans doing traditional dances in colourful costumes. There was also a group campaigning for the 2016 Olympic bid in Tokyo. LOL.
The flag says "It can be done, because it's Japan. A new Olympics!" Well, we all know how that bid went. I think many Tokyoites were heartily relieved when Tokyo didn't get the bid. The commute to work would have been a nightmare. Tokyo is already a very crowded city. Toronto is also after the Olympic bid, and although it's disloyal, I pray we don't get it. We have the worst subway ever, so getting to work during the Olympics would be a nightmare!
After the blessing of the water and the dancers, they set up these huge fire hoses at intervals along the street. It wasn't long before the portable shrines began to appear.
Some of the shrines weigh over 5000 lbs, and are supported by huge grids of wood carried by a team of about 40 plus people. Every so often the leader would give a shout and they'd actually throw it up in the air! I thought it was super impressive.
That 'rain' you see is actually from these guys:
It seems like all the teams are having a good time, despite carrying such a heavy burden. Most of the teams were joking, egging on the people throwing water, and laughing.
The festival is slated to start tomorrow, and end on the 16th. If you're in the Tokyo area, check it out. It's one of the top 10 festivals of Tokyo, so you know it'll be something to remember!