National | AT A GLANCE

Yasukuni Shrine glows in its traditional mid-summer show

by Yoshiaki Miura

Staff Photographer

It’s like a midsummer night’s dream.

In mid-July, Yasukuni Shrine in central Tokyo was lit up in orange by 30,000 lanterns lining the approach to the annual Mitama Matsuri festival, creating a nostalgic atmosphere.

The festival’s location, often a point of diplomatic contention with neighboring countries because it honors Class-A World War II war criminals along with the nation’s war dead, is a focal point of prayer for the peaceful repose of the lost souls.

But for many visitors, it’s an attractive tourism spot that offers a glimpse of Japan’s traditional festivals with Awa odori and Bon odori dance performances and parades of men carrying mikoshi portable shrines.

The event’s crescendo happens when visitors, some wearing yukata casual kimono, and the Bon odori performers dance together in the heat of a summer night.

One of the biggest summer festivals in Tokyo, and held since 1947, the four-day event attracts about 300,000 visitors from home and abroad every year. The festival takes place during Tokyo’s traditional Bon period in July.

Tourists can be seen taking selfies amid the orange lanterns and vividly colored streamers that hang down from above. The food and drink stands that once dotted the shrine’s approach have been banned during the event from last year, as many young people, some inebriated, caused a bit of a ruckus.

Women in yukata casual kimono take a selfie with their smartphone at the Mitama Matsuri festival at Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo
Women in yukata casual kimono take a selfie with their smartphone at the Mitama Matsuri festival at Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward on July 16. | YOSHIAKI MIUIRA
Children and adults perform the Awa odori dance at the Mitama Matsuri festival at Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo
Children and adults perform the Awa odori dance at the Mitama Matsuri festival at Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward on July 16. | YOSHIAKI MIURA
A couple kiss among rows of orange lanterns at the Mitama Matsuri festival at Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo
A couple kiss among rows of orange lanterns at the Mitama Matsuri festival at Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward on July 16. | YOSHIAKI MIURA
Men carry a mikoshi portable shrine as they parade during the Mitama Matsuri at Yasukuni Shrine in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on July 16.
Men carry a mikoshi portable shrine as they parade during the Mitama Matsuri at Yasukuni Shrine in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on July 16. | YOSHIAKI MIURA
Japanese calligraphy on a lantern at Yasukuni Shrine during the Mitama Matsuri reads
Japanese calligraphy on a lantern at Yasukuni Shrine during the Mitama Matsuri reads ‘Rest in peace, my loved one, watch over me, my loved one.’ | YOSHIAKI MIURA
Tourists from home and abroad dance with Bon odori performers during the Mitama Matsuri festival at Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo
Tourists from home and abroad dance with Bon odori performers during the Mitama Matsuri festival at Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward on July 16. | YOSHIAKI MIURA

This section, appearing in the first week of each month, explores in photographs neighborhoods of interest.