On Sunday, March 15, Omotesando-dori will be transformed into a bustling Celtic cultural fiesta. This year’s St Patrick’s Day parade is sure to be one of the best in years with over 2,000 participants and some 30,000 spectators expected along with dignitaries from Tokyo’s diplomatic community.
This fun-filled international parade offers a unique opportunity for all to enjoy the delights of Irish music and dancing, Celtic art and design, colorful paraders from throughout Japan and a even a chance to sample a free glass of Guinness or Baileys – two of Ireland’s finest liquid exports.
The St Patrick’s Day celebrations in Tokyo will also have a strong international dimension with Irish, American, British, Japanese and citizens of the world coming together to revel in a day that has longed ceased to be an exclusively Irish affair. Japanese Irish dancers will step to the tune of fiddles and tin whistles, while "St Patrick" himself will lead the van of bagpipe bands, marching bands, the finest of the U.S. military’s musicians, university cheerleading teams, international schools and for animal lovers – Irish setters and Irish wolfhounds joining in to enjoy the limelight. Volunteers from all walks of life will also be seen carrying balloons and banners in this prestigious parade.
St Patrick’s Day has become such an inclusively international event that it is easy to forget the origins of the day and, why on the weekend closest to March 17 throughout the world, green has truly gone global. St Paddy’s Day is traditionally a religious holiday and green is the predominant color seen at the parades because in Ireland, green symbolizes hope and nature and the beginning of spring. March 17 marks the anniversary of the death of the man who, legend claims, converted the pagan Irish to Christianity.
Little is known about the early life of St Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. His life however was certainly full of irony. Most notable is the fact that he was not Irish at all but British, having being kidnapped from his home in Britain as a boy by Irish pirates and forced to live as a slave for six years tending sheep in Ireland. It was a lonely and frightening experience, and he found comfort in prayer and reflection.
Tradition of parade began in U.S., not Ireland
The tradition of the St Patrick’s Day parade began not in Ireland but in the United States, when Irish soldiers serving with the British Army marched through New York City on March 17, 1762. From humble roots, the St Patrick’s Day parade has gone from strength to strength and is now celebrated in nearly all the major cities of the world stretching from New York to Sydney and Moscow to Tokyo. The New York City parade is by far the largest with over 200,000 participants and over a million watching from the street or on television.
The first parade in Tokyo took place in 1992 and like so many others, it has gone from strength to strength due largely to hard work, generous sponsorship and the old Irish saying that on this day "Everybody is Irish" and as such welcome to dance, drink, laugh and enjoy the festivities like so many others throughout the world on St Patrick’s Day.
Tips for a great St Patrick’s Day
-- Begin the day with a traditional Irish breakfast/brunch of sausages and bacon at one of the many Irish bars located throughout Tokyo.
-- Attend the St Patrick’s Day parade on Omotesando-dori (nearest stations: Omotesando (Hanzomon Line) or Harajuku (JR Line). The parade begins at 2 p.m. It is expected that there will be over 2,000 participants and over 30,000 spectators.
The numerous attractions include:
-- Listening to Irish music and watching the Irish dancers perform.
-- Bagpipe bands in their tartan skirts, colorful marching bands, the Tokyo Pipe Band, university cheerleading teams, the U.S. military brass band, international school groups, Celtic art and design exhibits and a host of paraders from throughout Japan and the four corners of the world.
-- Be the envy of others by participating in the parade and perhaps be seen on television or photographed for a newspaper or magazine. Volunteers (who arrive early) are welcome to carry banners, balloons, flags and even large plastic inflatables of Guinness, Irish whiskey, Baileys etc (empty of course!!!)
-- See the numerous Irish setters (with their beautiful coats) and the Irish wolfhounds (the world’s tallest dog) as they strut their stuff past the thousands of on-lookers on Omotesando-dori.
-- Enjoy free samples of Guinness, Baileys and other famous Irish beverages at the drinks stalls located along the parade route.
-- Get a photo with St Patrick or try to catch a leprechaun (Irish fairy) and run off with his pot of gold and maybe even a wish.
-- After the fun and frolics of the parade, retire to any one of a choice of Irish bars offering a range of traditional St Patrick’s Day dishes such as Irish stew, cabbage and bacon, corned beef, Irish soda bread and a selection of succulent dishes from the Emerald Isle.
-- Once you have recharged your batteries in preparation for an evening of live Irish music, Irish dancing, sing-songs and refreshments, then proceed to one of the numerous Irish pubs that will mark the occasion by providing food and beverages for one day only, at half the normal price. How tempting it would be to sample a creamy pint of Guinness or a glass of Baileys for as little as 500 yen. Live Irish music performances will also take place in bars throughout Tokyo.
Further information on the St Patrick’s Day parade and festivities can be found on the Irish Network Japan website at http://www.inj.or.jp/index_e.html© Japan Today