Well, old style udon, soba and ramen. All of which — somewhat unusually perhaps — are served up daily on the grounds of a shrine. And not just any old shrine either, but the famous, or indeed infamous, Yasukuni Shrine.
Traditional Japanese festivals often require a lot of effort, but the pay-off is that they are almost always a tremendous amount of fun.
Traditional festivals are always a great sight, but when surrounded by the modernity of the big city, they arguably become even more of a spectacle.
On August 15th, the anniversary of Japan’s surrender, it’s common to see the extreme right doing their thing at Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine. The same is also true for National Foundation Day on February 11th — events I’ve photographed and written briefly about before. A few favourites being this uniform-clad old man last summer, a large gathering of like-minded extremists a few years ago, and further back still, some atmospheric scenes in the snow.
So, due to them being so oddly fascinating, I did the same again on Monday. Just as they did what they usually do too.
But that’s not the whole story of course. There were many thousands of ordinary people, very ordinarily paying their respects. Plus, it has to be said, a very select few doing something that one really wouldn’t call typical at all.
The upcoming August 15th anniversary of Japan’s surrender, as well as National Foundation Day in February, are dates when one expects to see large gatherings of nationalists at Yasukuni Shrine. Despite its infamous nature, however, at other times of the year, Yasukuni is generally very welcoming, with little in the way of noticeable controversy except for its rather revisionist museum.
So what the relevance of yesterday was I don’t know, but a sizeable group of right-wing extremists were there for a ceremony of some sort or another. To be absolutely fair, they were quiet, respectful in regards other visitors, and they also paid their respects in an equally thoughtful manner. But of course kitted out in their uniforms, and as a decent-sized group, they made for a striking sight. Plus perhaps more significantly — considering the hawkish nature of the current Prime Minister — they provoked thoughts of Japan’s past, present, and possibly more importantly, its future.