Let’s watch an epic pagoda parade…at night

Oeshiki ikegami at Ikegami Hongan-ji temple

Photo of pagodas parading down the street at night at the oeshiki ikegami festival in Tokyo

What better way to spend a fine fall evening than watching scores of five-tier pagodas parade down the street, all lit up and festooned with garlands of paper flowers? For over seven hundred years, the festival of 10,000 lanterns known as oeshiki ikegami has been happening every October at the Ikegami Hongan-ji temple to commemorate the death of Nichiren, the sect’s founder.

Photo of pagodas parading down the street at night at the oeshiki ikegami festival in Tokyo
In the hour before the parade begins, the pagodas assemble on side streets hung with festival lanterns, and we can get close to them to admire their workmanship
Photo of firemen twirling standards at night at the oeshiki ikegami festival in Tokyo
Firemen dressed as Edo-era matoi limber up for twirling their team’s standards along the length of the parade
Photo of pagodas parading down the street at night at the oeshiki ikegami festival in Tokyo
Each pagoda is unique and represents an outpost of the Nichiren sect, which established temples throughout Japan in the 13th century
Photo of pagoda at the oeshiki ikegami festival in Tokyo
Some look like traditional Japanese pagoda architecture
Photo of pagoda at the oeshiki ikegami festival in Tokyo
While others have a more pared-down sensibility
Photo of pagoda at the oeshiki ikegami festival in Tokyo
And others give off a more Deco feel
Photo of pagoda at the oeshiki ikegami festival in Tokyo
No amount of gold leaf is too much for these miniature architectural masterpieces
Photo of pagodas parading down the street at night at the oeshiki ikegami festival in Tokyo
All along the parade route, the pagodas vie for the oohs and aahs of the crowd
Photo of pagodas parading down the street at night at the oeshiki ikegami festival in Tokyo
While their teams of firemen try to outdo each other with vigorous shouts and feats of athletic twirling
Photo of crowd streaming in the gate at Ikegami Honmon-ji temple in Tokyo at the Oeshiki Ikegami festival
As the parade approaches the temple, the crowds swell
Photo of crowd streaming in the gate at Ikegami Honmon-ji temple in Tokyo at the Oeshiki Ikegami festival
Halfway up the stairs, you can look back and see the hordes approaching with the pagodas swaying among them
Pagoda going into the grand gate at Ikegami Honmon-ji temple in Tokyo at the Oeshiki Ikegami festival
A the top, each pagoda and its team passes through the grand gate
Pagoda being blessed at Ikegami Honmon-ji temple in Tokyo at the Oeshiki Ikegami festival
And receives a blessing from the Ikegami Honmon-ji’s cadre of priests

Despite the crowds, it’s easy to get close enough to admire these wonderful pagodas. Well worth the trek to Ikegami to watch! For information on this year’s dates and times, check out TokyoCheapo’s listing.

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Jonelle Patrick writes mystery novels set in Tokyo, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had

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