Neil Witkin is a Japan-based photographer.
Recently-added documentary photography features the Hakata Gion Yamakasa Matsuri, a Shinto festival in which massive one-ton shrines are carried on mens' shoulders and raced through the streets of Fukuoka, Japan.
The festival's history reaches back to 1241, when the Buddhist monk Kokuchi Seiichi is said to have driven out an epidemic which had spread through Hakata. Carried high on an offering tray by followers, he purified the city with sacred water. This event grew into a traditional Shinto festival conducted by the Kushida Shrine, (itself having been established in Hakata in the year 757).
In the modern festival, seven venerable groups each race a colassal shrine decorated by a local Hakata doll craftsman.
A seperate documentary photography series captures moments from two years of performances by the Hebi Onna 蛇女 (Snake Woman), who appears in a sideshow in a back corner of the Hojoya festival; held at the Hakozaki Shrine.
She returns each year to the same spot in order to entertain crowds of all ages. They pack inside a large wooden tent lit with incandescent bulbs, which pulse with heat in the waning summer nights.
The photography presented here was shot primarily in Fukuoka City, Hakata, Nakasu, Dazaifu, Chikushino, Aso, Munakata, Kurume, Tenjin, Kanagawa, Oita, Takachiho, Takamiya, Yanagawa, Nokonoshima, and Kitakyushu. Additional photos were shot in the Philippines.
Notable Shinto shrines featured in these photographs include Atago Shrine, Kushida Shrine, Dazaifu Tenmangu, Munakata Taisha, Daizenji Tamataregu, Izumo Taisha, Hakozaki Shrine, Gokoku Shrine, and Iwato Shrine.
Other locations of interest include the Fukuoka Castle, the Yosentei Garden, Tochoji, and the Kotokuin Temple.
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ニール • ウィットキン
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All photographs and images Copyright © 2012 Neil Witkin ニール•ウィットキン. All rights reserved.