[From October Issue 2014]
Tenku (Celestial) Geisha Night
Mt. Mitake in Ome City, Tokyo Prefecture, has been revered since ancient times as the most sacred spot in Kanto. On the summit is the Musashi Mitake Shinto Shrine. Since the middle of the Edo era (17 – 18th centuries), the people of Kanto have been visiting this shrine to the God of farming. It was once common for people to make so-called Mitake moude (shrine visits) in order to receive lucky charms for a bumper harvest.
The vestiges of this history can be seen near the summit, where shukubo (shrine lodging) are clustered. Even today, you can spend a night in one of them and taste traditional, simple dishes, containing seasonal produce from the mountain and homegrown vegetables. Many people voice such opinions as: “The food was good and I’m glad I had a relaxing time in such a quiet environment.”
By taking a train, bus, cable car and then continuing on foot, it takes three hours to reach Mt. Mitake from Tokyo. Just 929 meters above sea level, it’s a popular mountain which anyone, from children to seniors, can easily climb. It’s also a treasure house of birds, insects and plants. An oasis within Tokyo Prefecture, here you can enjoy forest walks, visits to the shrine or relaxing at a shukubo.
Currently, an event called “Tenku (Celestial) Geisha Night” is being held once a month near the summit. There’s little explanation in English, but it’s organized in such a way that non-Japanese can also have a good time. It’s composed of two parts: for the first part geisha dance and play music on a specially made stage in front of the Musashi Mitake Shrine; for the second part guests move to their shukubo’s dining hall where they can play ozashiki (games while drinking) and enjoy music as well as dancing.
The first part requires no prior reservation. Typically between 100 and 200 people participate. Antonio GUERRERO from Spain had spent the previous night at a shukubo and said excitedly, “This mountain is magnificent because of its tranquility. I enjoyed watching geisha dancing up close.”
The second part requires a reservation and numbers are limited to 50 people. Guests get fired up playing “omawarisan” (Mr. Policeman) and “toraken” (tiger game) – games based on rock-paper-scissors. American Maggie ROBY who teaches English in Japan said, contentedly, “I joined up after seeing this on a blog. It was so much fun that I want to come back in the near future.” Her friend Bridget Wynne WILLSON also commented, “I really enjoyed myself. It’s my first time at a shukubo, so I’m looking forward to my stay tonight.”
BABA Yoshihiko is vice president of Mt. Mitake Commerce Association which organizes the event. He says, enthusiastically, “Through such events, we’d like to demonstrate the appeal of Mt. Mitake’s culture to foreign tourists.” The event will be held until December of this year. There’s no charge.
Text: KONO Yu