My favorite activity above all in Tokyo during the summer and early autumn is to just randomly visit minor festival and local celebrations. Last night I visited Kagurazaka in central Tokyo and found out that there was a small festival right next doors in Sekiguchicho. A short walk and I am rewarded by a complete first for me, a corporate Bonodori dancing team! Bondori is the most traditional of Japanese summer dancers and I have blogged about it several times before but usually the dancers are volunteer instructors or locals! This time however, a dancing team from Tokyo Shinyo Kinko (東京信用金庫) served as instructors for this local festival.
When I first arrived in Japan I noticed that there were two different kinds of banks here, the normal huge corporate banks that you’ll find in any country, and a different kind of bank called Shinyo Kinko that operates like a credit union. These banks are owned by the members as a cooperative and although they need to generate a small surplus to stay solvent they do not operate for profit. All fees and interest rates are set at the lowest possible level. Recently you might have heard of the term “microfinancing” – well, Shinyo Kinko work just the same but instead of relying on volunteer work the generate enough income to be operationably independent. The boards are elected by the members from the members and function democratically. Shinyo Kinko started in 1951 as a way for local businesses and people to get small scale loans without the strict terms of the larger banks, just after the war. Cash was hard to come by and the Shinyo Kinko helped ordinary people take out small loans to start businesses or rebuild their homes destroyed by bombing. A sort of bootstrap banking, if you will. These days the same principle is being used by for example Kiva, to help raise small income families in third world countries from poverty.
It’s nice for a change, to see a bank that helps local communities to rise out of poverty instead of plunging them into it, put on a dance show. Usually it’s the other way around.
The two on-duty drummers did really well, one of them operating the main drum while the other beat out the higher staccato rhythms on the side of the drum, taking turns and being quite flamboyant about it! It was still early evening and most locals were busy eating from the local food stalls but I soon discovered at least one source to their good mood! Notice the 33cl beer can in the lower left of the pictures? Some drummers drink Asahi Beer!
I took these photos of the cool drummers and the gorgeous dancers (aren’t they just too beautiful?) with my 85mm lens. I haven’t used that one for a while so I felt a little guilty. The light was also absolutely red but a little bit of work in Photoshop fixed the worst of it. All in all, a great Saturday.