The blog of Tokyo based photographer and photojournalist, Damon Coulter

Anjin San

William Adams statue in ItoIto, Shizuoka, Japan Saturday August 10th 2013 Anjin matsuri Ito, Shizuoka, Japan Saturday August 10th 2013 Ito, Shizuoka, Japan Saturday August 10th 2013

Written about the Englishman, William Adams before but this weekend finally got to go to the Anjin Matsuri in Ito on the Izu peninsular to see him honoured in Japan.

Due to family pressures (it was much more of a beach holiday for the kids!) didn’t actually get to see much of the festival itself but did meet and get interviewed by William Adams himself (bottom image). As the real Will Adams died in 1620 it wasn’t actually him of course. Indeed it wasn’t even an Englishman but a Japanese man in a blond wig and Elizabethan clothes who was very hot in that get-up but also very happy to share the history of Ito and tell me about the blue-eyed samurai who came to Japan 400 years ago and became a friend and advisor to the Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu.

I know a thing or two about William Adams as he is from my hometown of Gillingham in Kent. My dad’s interest in history plus his connections to the sea made the name something I grew up with. When James Clavell’s Shogun was shown on the TV in my youth we all watched it religiously. I learnt my first few Japanese words from watching it; indeed it would be true to say that series piqued my initial interest in Japan itself.

There was a touch of home also as the parade, that is the main event of the festival, got ready when I met and briefly spoke to four exchange students from Medway who were leading the parade (third image). The students: two women called Sally Jeffery and Molly Ellwood and two men called Matthew English and Lare Erogbogbo were somewhat hot and flustered and seemed either unimpressed or too tired to react to this chance encounter with a Kentish compatriot.

Japanese people love organising photo calls and poses and all lots of old men and women were fussing around them of them. It seemed everyone had a job and a particular place to be stand and smile to do so our conversation was brief.  Though it appears they are over of a few weeks, heading off to various cultural events and having a good time despite the heat. Indeed Lare seemed to be loving the sunshine.

Then it was back to the beach, past the statue of William Adams that commemorates his connection to this town (It is where he oversaw the  building of Japan’s first western style sailing ship) and then a sunburnt afternoon with the kids at the beach and fireworks over red wine at night kind of a day.

A mostly good day out to be honest.

Hope to go again next year.

Damon

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