Participants at the Sanja Matsuri Festival in Asakusa, Tokyo, hoist a heavy portable shrine under the gate to the Sensoji Temple. The mikoshi portable shrine is one of several used to transport the deities housed in the main shrine through the adjacent neighborhoods to bless and protect the inhabitants. Residents of Asakusa take turns carrying the shrines, and often fight each other for the chance to carry them, hoping to exude a sensual element of 'iki', a uniquely Japanese aesthetic embodying a clear, stylish manner and blunt, unwavering directness, an expression of simplicity, sophistication, spontaneity and originality. Also in view are groups of shirtless, heavily tattooed men in loin cloths intending to add extra flavor to the festivities.Umbrella dancers, right, add a dash of vibrant color to the celebrations at the Tenjin Festival. Endless rows of festival food stalls along the Okawa River add to the convivial mood. A gilt portable shrine with a gold phoenix at the top - mikoshi in Japanese - temporarily holds the spirit of the deity honored at the Tenmangu Shrine. The procession and several portable shrines are loaded onto boats to be paraded up and down the river until fireworks begin in the evening.At the Tenjin Festival in Osaka, festivities commence on the first day at the Tenmangu Shrine with prayers for prosperity for Osakans followed by drumming by men in tall red hats, shown left, meant to inform everyone that preparations for the festival have been completed, and afterwards the red hatted drummers lead a procession through the streets of Osaka featuring costumed characters such as a long nosed goblin on a horse, lion dancers, umbrella dancers and other surreal attractions.12

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