The Oji Fox parade was inspired by a Japanese legend. As the story goes, foxes would gather from all over Japan under a big tree in Oji on New Year's Eve and disguise themselves in human costumes so that they could visit the Oji Inari Shrine. Inari is the Shinto God who was the God of foxes, fertility, rice, tea, sake, agriculture and industry, and in the past, swordsmiths and merchants. This legend was immortalised by Ukiyo-e master Hiroshige Utagawa in this print.
The parade has been held each year since 1993. It is always held on New Year's Eve and doubles as the traditional first Shrine visit (Hatsumode) of the year, which is a ritual event in Japan. It begins at Oji Shrine at exactly midnight and parades through the streets to Oji Inari Shrine and it involves members of the local community, and representatives of both Shrines parading through the street wearing fox masks or fox face paint. At about 10:30 pm I started making my way over to Oji filled with anticipation of what was to come.
Arriving at the station I eventually met up with occasional blog companion, Tetsuya, who had already been out and bought himself a fox mask!
A little while later, Jarrett and Angela arrived and we all set off in the direction of the starting point, Oji Shrine. On our way, we saw plenty of signs that you usually see when a festival is happening........lamps!
We soon arrived at Oji Shrine only to find that it was jam packed with people! We had arrived with about 15 minutes to go until the parade started and so had everyone else!
It was a tiny little shrine and unless you walked directly by it, you would have no idea that it was even there!
Wanting to find a spot along the parade route where I could get some good photos we headed off. The crowds had already lined the streets near the beginning of the parade so we kept walking and finally about 3/4 of the way along the route we found a clear spot. A little while later, the parade started making its way toward us. First the official parade participants and next, members of the local community. I'll let the pictures tell the story!
These looked heavy!
I think this next one was the parade queen. She kindly stopped and posed for my photo!
This last little guy looked thoroughly bored with the whole thing! Looked like he just wanted to go to sleep!
A couple of hours later (2am) it was all over. Jarrett and Angela decided to head home but Tetsuya and I decided that the night was still young. Hungry and wide awake we plotted our next move. Where else to go early New Years Day with empty bellies? A shrine of course! Although a larger one was needed for the food stalls so we jumped back onto a train (most of the trains run all night in Tokyo on New Year's Eve) and made our way to my local shrine (Omiya Hachimangu Shrine, which is a decent size) and enjoyed all of the great food on offer.
These next ones were good!! Some kind of gyoza filled pancakes!!
These next ones were not food.....
At around 8am, after having watched the first sunrise of the new year, I wandered home and jumped into bed for a good days sleep!
That was a very different New Year's Eve from what I am used to, but I loved it. The fox parade was great, and you could really see and sense that the Oji community takes great pride in it. Also, spending time at the Shrine and watching the first sunrise was a peaceful and serene way to see in the New Year. In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I might do it all again next New Year's!!
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Take care, and see you next time!