A couple of weekends ago I visited the massively fun Yoshiwara Gion Matsuri, in Shizuoka prefecture’s Fuji City. Like last year’s festival it was huge fun, from morning to midnight and I enjoyed ever second of it. I took these photos near the end of it, following the wonderfully decorated dashi, each crewed and representing a specific neighborhood in the city. Here’s the dashi of Sumiyoshicho and some of it’s very cool looking crew. These dashi are the pride of their neighborhoods and the people take great care of them, making sure they are in top notch condition for the annual festival. I heard somewhere that a typical prize for one of these is about 300 000 USD! Later on, walking down the street I came upon a dashi-seriai (山車競り合い), which roughly translates as “dashi showdown”! I think there were 5 or 6 of them, all drawn up in a tight circle battling it out in a very noise competition where the locals of each team tries to throw the others of their beat! They do this in any way imaginable, complicated rhythms, enthusiastic drumming, strange costumes, loud instruments, chanting… unfortunately I didn’t have time to stick around and see who won – so many things to see that evening!
Fuji City is a bit to the west of Tokyo and it takes a couple of hours on the local trains to get there but it’s well worth the trip!
Not sure what it will do for the balance of the men/women ratio on this blog, but I seriously must post these photos from the wonderful Yoshiwara Gionsai festival in Fuji City earlier this month. In this festival, every neighborhood of the city puts up their own “dashi” and make sure it is manned with as many people as possible from the neighborhood itself, each dashi crew is trying to outdo the others in music, performance and style! Although the beauty of the girls representing Rokkencho might have ensured them the top spot this year, no one could help noticing the hunks manning the Yodahara (依田原) dashi! These guys spared nothing when it came to putting on a show! You can tell these guys are no weaklings – two of them have the telltale marks on their shoulders that come from carrying an omikoshi an hour through the streets (not something I think I could survive). I often think Japanese men don’t get the attention they deserve, cute girls tend to steal the show, but I challenge anyone to find a man that matches that almost Schwarzeneggarian smile on the young drummer? Girls – if you’re wondering where all the real men of Japan are hiding out – Shizuoka prefecture might be a good place to start looking!
I don’t know what it is about the people of Shizuoka, but they come out really well in photos, especially the kids. I took these snapshots of local children at the amazing Yoshiwara Gionsai (吉原祇園祭), the main festival (I think!) of the the Yoshiwara district in Fuji City, just to the south of Mount Fuji. I’ve said it before but Japanese kids really are beautiful, and the older ones have great taste in headwear as well! Enjoy!
Being based in Tokyo you tend to compare everything in Japan with what you are used to in that great city, but there really is something special about the festivals of Shizuoka prefecture, to the west after Kanagawa prefecture. Shizuoka is right in the heartland of Japanese light and heavy Industry, between Tokyo and Nagoya, enjoying a mild climate from the southern latitudes and the closeness to the Pacific Ocean. There’s something almost tropical about Shizuoka’s summer festival, like the Yoshiwara Gionsai that I visited last Sunday. It differs in a few details from other similar festivals but you would recognize the entertainment and music from the other great festivals of Shizuoka; Hamamatsu, Kakegawa, Mishima, etc (to just mention the ones I make a point of visiting as often as I can). It is really strange to me that so few people from Tokyo take the chance to travel out to here, it’s just two-three hours on the local trains from Tokyo and far cheaper than the Shinkansen bullet trains. I did this trip over the day, morning departure from Tokyo station and then back again at night. If you have a little free time in Tokyo this summer and want to see something new, I can really recommend checking out the festivals of Shizuoka prefecture!