Futon Daiko: Celebration

futon_daiko_ume_kita_choThe Futon Daiko festival at Mozu Hachiman Shrine in Sakai, Japan is a lunar festival, taking place in late September or early October on the weekend closest to the full moon. Nine town participate in this event.

These festivals are a celebration of community. A hundred or more people are need to carry these floats and far more in the community are needed to support the event. The bonds in these communities are strong and the festival maintains and strengthens them. Click on the image for a larger view.

Futon Daiko - William Ash

Futon Daiko: Kaidan

The Futon Daiko festival at Mozu-Hachiman Shrine in Sakai, Japan is an amazing event. Each of the nine towns have their own float, or dashi. Two teams of fifty to seventy men are needed to carry these two and a half ton structures. And they do not simply carry them, but march in a straight-legged gait and sing.

The real trial for these men are the steps, or kaidan, that lead to the main shrine. After carrying the dashi all day, the floats are taken up and down these steps multiple times. It is a dangerous maneuver, but a crowd pleaser. Click on the image for a larger view.

Futon Daiko - William Ash

Futon Daiko—The Picture Story

How do you separate luck and talent? Talent can get you good images, competent images. But those magic moments, where do they come from? Personally, I feel those pictures are given, rather than taken.futon_daiko_nightThis image from Futon Daiko: A Japanese Festival is a result of many chance factors. The crowd was huge and pushed me back against a stone lantern; the force of the crowd split the lens hood on another camera in my bag. Needing some kind of support to make a long exposure—a tripod was not going to work—I  clamped my camera on a steel I-beam supporting a branch of an 800-year-old camphor tree at arms length above my head.  So far, so good. Just one problem. How do I frame the picture? I could not see through the viewfinder.

For those without a photography background, there is a technique or style known as shooting full frame. The photographer frames the image in the camera and does not recompose or crop later. I have used this style for my entire career—an unnerving way to work as there are no fixes later. So guessing the camera position, guessing the focus, guessing the exposure, here is the result, just as the camera saw it.

How much of this image is mine? How much luck? How much the good graces of the god Hachiman? I doubt the question can ever be answered. But I feel blessed to be there to take the picture, or maybe to receive it.

Futon Daiko - William Ash

Futon Daiko: A Japanese Festival

We are pleased to announce our new publication that has just been released in the Apple iBookstore: Futon Daiko: A Japanese Festival.futon_daikoJapan has an ancient and mysterious culture that seems impenetrable to the outsider. Experience is the essence of the native Japanese religion of Shinto. This volume of photographs explores the Japanese festival, or matsuri, embodied in shrine Shinto. The book follows the two-day Futon Daiko festival at Mozu Hachiman Shrine in Sakai, Japan, after an introduction to another variation of the festival at Ogikubo Hakusan Shrine in Tokyo. William Ash’s photography shows the passion and power of these rites. The book provides a beautiful introduction to shrine Shinto with forty-six photographs, two illustrations, and an illustrated glossary.

Futon Daiko - William Ash