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Tokyo’s St Patrick’s Day Parade – It’s a long way from Tipperary

36 Comments
By Senan Fox

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

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36 Comments
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The only time I had a Guinness in Tokyo I was prepared to be disappointed (with all the distance it had to travel) but it was even worse than I expected - it was barely drinkable. Does anyone know if this is the norm or did I just have a one-off? What are the ones in America like?

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Dreamdrifter - It's not the Guinness. It's the way they pour it. The same with beer. You never top up a beer or Guinness with a backward pour from the tap as it has no gas, thus making the brew taste flat. Most Japanese wouldn't know the difference between a good Guinness and a bad Guinness. Also, once a keg is tapped it is only good for 3 days or so and because the demand is low Guinness usually sits in the a tapped keg for a fortnight. Again, making it taste like it was stirred with a spoon dipped in Vegemite. If I was still managing the bar I'd invite you in for a fresh Guinness with gas.

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good info, cheers.

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Guinness its all in the pouring. Also helps if the barman spits into the glass before pouring. What about the bare knuckles fights? You cannot have a real St. Pats Day without a bit of the 'biff and a rendition of "Tim Finnegan."

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It's got to be Murphy's... with oysters...

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This event should be cancelled following the 2 soldiers murder and now the Policemans murder in ULster.

The Tokyo parade should be cancelled and those who would atend should reflect and mourn the recently dead, maybe satrt a fund for the dead.

This is the wrong time for Irish to be seen celebrating, it is a scandal.

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I am conductiong a research - who drinks more - the Irish or the English?

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And doubtless there will be a few choruses of the Fields of Athenry....

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Ok, so that must have been it. That the Japanese can't serve Guinness. When I took a sip I tought: this is how pi@@ must taste. You learn something everyday. For the rest, nice blokes those Irish, when they stay sober.

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I do not know if it still is, but the Guinness sold in bottles in Japan used to be called "London Pub Guinness". This may be because the Guinness sold in Britain used to be pretty foul, but most likely it was because the marketing men assumed (quite correctly) than most Japanese had not heard of Ireland.

Thenewfront: I am afraid I do not follow your rationale for cancelling St Patrick's Day. After all, if you applied the same rationale for every event, we would never celebrate anything.

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Celebrating whilst ones countrymen are committing acts of terrorism is a slap in the face of the innocent victims. A mark of respect should be made, not a party, where the murders are ignored. I and many British find this parade and othe St Patricks day parades around the world today distastefull after the resumption of terrorist attacks by pro Eire nationalists.

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Ah So: Guinness served in Britain is identical to tahts erved in Ireland. Why make assunptions about British Guinness.

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Enough of these blarnified headlines, Danny Boy. The pipes are callin' you.

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Lots of Birtish peeps In Kansai celebrate St Patricks Day. Halloween, too. In fact, I knows many who even celebrate the Fourth of July. I reckon it's prolly the same up Tokyo way.

Any excuse to drink.

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rollonarte: Any British who do celebrate are not deserving of their BRitish passports. Celebrating Iralnds St Paddy's day whilst innocents alr slaughtered is a disgrace. I hope all the St Patricks night parades are failures, they deserve to be.

Moderator: Readers, please leave politics out of this discussion.

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Hey, Thenewfront - it's also the UK's St Paddy's day, as Northern Ireland is in the UK.

Are you also going to be demanding that the Irish Guards stop wearing their shamrocks?

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Thenewfront:

Even the Irish part of me thinks that St Paddy's Day has just become a tacky Guinness PR event (and perpetuates the myth that the Irish somehow invented jam sessions in pubs...) Although I prefer to sup some fine ale on St George's Day instead, I don't begrudge others their Guinness-swilling celebrations, and usually try to block out the tack and hype and join in the fun.

But making any connection between SPD and the renewed Real IRA violence is not sensible at all. The UK and Ireland are fighting the Real IRA. Celebrating Irishness (or rather, fake plastic-paddy Oirishness) does not imply supporting the Real IRA (drunken ranting anti-Brit bigots one may meet in Shinjuku Dubliners notwithstanding.)

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I am conductiong a research - who drinks more - the Irish or the English?

I think you'll find it's the Scottish :-)

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Starviking: Northern Isalnd does not celebrate St Patricks day, unless you include the minority Roman catholic community.

Why celebrate in Tokyo? How many Irish are there? Not many, just a money making scam.

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Disillusioned - thanks, interesting!

For many of those of us who are not Irish, St Paddy's day is pretty much nothing more than an excuse to drink Guinness, and why not? Much like how Christmas is treated in Japan, we all know it's a marketing ploy but it's a marketing ploy that not many people particularly mind.

Must say I'm impressed with Guinness's marketing strategy - they've managed to turn what could have been regarded as a boring old stout into one of the coolest brands in the industry (as well as making Ireland everyone's favourite country, if even just for a day!)

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Have a nice party. Don't worry about authenticity too much, there are Japan days back in the uk serving up locally brewed "japanese" beer n food that is also nothing like the original and will give you a worse hangover. Probably quite bad promotion respectively really.. although st patricks day for most is about getting drunk so for most of those quality or how you do it(what you drink (and not eat)) is not so much an issue.

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Thenewfront:

Ah So: Guinness served in Britain is identical to tahts erved in Ireland. Why make assunptions about British Guinness.

Even if the same recipe is used, if a beer is brewed in different locations then they would result in having slightly different flavours.

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dreamdrifter: Brewed in the same places as far as British and Irish Guinness goes.

Moderator: Back on topic please.

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Starviking: Northern Isalnd does not celebrate St Patricks day, unless you include the minority Roman catholic community.

The minority RC community is actually quite a large number of people and they are part of Northern Irish life. Saying that NI does not celebrate SPD is dismissive of a huge number of people who live there and call it home, like it or like it not. You have a very sectarian attitude, which is dangerous, given the awful events of the past few days.

Moderator: All readers stay on topic please. This discussion is about how St Patrick's Day is celebrated in Tokyo. References to politics are not relevant. Please discuss that on the appropriate thread in the World section.

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Irish people seem like cool people. I would like to drink with them (some of them).

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500 Yen is half price for a Guinness? Ever get the feeling you're being cheated?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Peace and good drinking to all.

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Lighten up Thenewfront, if you don't want to be part of the party than sit in your den and read a book. I for one am going to spend some quality time with my family and then proceed to drink my cousins under the table. I only drink this stuff once a year and I'll be d@m3& before I let the IRA's shinannigans have any bearing on my evening.

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I hope the Tokyo people enjoy their party, but reflect on current events.

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Sláinte! I've started already...

Does bringing along my Irish passport get me a free one?

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Lots of Birtish ex-pats in Kansai drink the Guiness on St Paddys Day, and they compose limericks, too! Is it the same up in the big smoke of Edo?

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I am conductiong a research - who drinks more - the Irish or the English?

The English. You were talking about water, right?

Actually, the Irish drink the most tea per capita in the world.

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Listening to Irish music and watching the Irish dancers perform.

I like the first tip, the second would be nice if they were actually Irish :>)

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St Paddys day in Tokyo is absolute quality!! Wish I was there this year:( Have a great time all!

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Who needs a special day to have a booze up, i mean , it's a bit stupid isn't it.Just another money making scheme i reckon.

I get tanked up every Friday and Saturday down the Nags Head whatever the occaision.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Im with ya there mickey. I only drink on 2 occasions.. When Im with some friends, or when im alone..

Still gotta love all the girls in green:D

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