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Saturday, May 10, 2014

Asakusabashi Red and White Chestnut Festival


This weekend, the 10th and 11th of May, is the seventh Asakusabashi Kohaku Marronnier Festival. Asakusabashi is a district in east Tokyo two train stations south of the more famous Asakusa district. Asakusabashi is best known for its wholesalers and shops selling accessories and sundries such as buttons, ribbons, balloons, leather goods, braid, and other clothing and hobbyist accessories, as well as fireworks shops and traditional Japanese doll shops which cater mainly to Japan's gift-giving tradition.

The "Kouhaku" in the festival's name means "red and white," and "Marronier" means "chestnut tree," referring to the chestnut trees that line the streets of Asakusabashi and bloom red and white in spring.

A fair with stalls took place today around the Hulic office building (the smartest and newest building in Asakusabashi) very near Asakusabashi Station (JR Sobu line and Toei Asakusa subway line). Besides stalls of local businesses and food vendors, there was a police stall, sporting a police motorbike, and a fire brigade stall as well.

As with any festival, dancing is indispensable. The Asakusabashi Kohaku Marronnier Festival featured the usual traditional Japanese dance parade, which proceeded from Asakusabashi Station north up to Torikoshi Shrine on Kuramae-dori. But a little exotic color was added in the form of Hawaiian dancing—made a little difficult on the very gusty spring day that Saturday was—but which gyrated and swung to the small crowd's delight. There were also taiko drumming performances and awa-odori dancing.

The Asakusabashi Kohaku Marronnier Festival program also offered Japanese-style afternoon entertainment, with manzai comedians and a shamisen performance.

In the evening, there was also the lure of the nearby Sumida River, with an hour or so in one of the local houseboats that ply the nearby Sumida River, where you drink and dine while enjoying views of the Tokyo Sky Tree.

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