I am extremely fortunate in that I am born a walker. I love walking. Can’t get enough of it. And few cities are so perfectly walkable as Tokyo. I often get off trains a couple off stations early just to get the pleasure of walking the final part of my journey, and I seldom use connecting trains, preferring to get somewhat in the right direction and then walk the last bit. Yesterday I lucked out again as I walking to a place two stations Shinagawa, and halfway there I lucked out and happened to find myself at a street performance by one of Tokyo’s most famous taiko drumming groups, the Daigen group, who has won several top awards both nationally and internationally. Even their junior members looked tougher than most grown up men in the audience! Their manager kept asking us to get closer but from where I was at front every beat of the drums brought sharp pain to my ears so I can understand the audience for keeping their distance!
There’s so many festivals, events and performances going on today here in Tokyo that you are agonizing over which one to go to right now! I won’t list them all, but one event that is worth attending if you haven’t been to many festivals this year, is the Nezu Shrine festival, the main event being today. I went there yesterday and saw this great performance by the Nezu Gongendaiko (根津権現太鼓) taiko drum group. They have two performances today and later on at night they also perform a much more limited set at the nearby bonodori street party. The performance I saw was an all woman drummer event and they were great. Groups with male drummers tend to focus more on raw power whereas the ladies are more into group interaction, one drummer will pick up the rhythm of another, and showy drum movements, switching drums or hitting more than one drum at a time. It’s great fun to watch and you really must be there because I have yet to hear a recording or see a video that comes even close to capturing what it really sounds like.
Just at the start of this year I blogged about a chance walk in on a performance by the fantastic taiko group Yushima Tenjin Shiraume Taiko group (湯島天神白梅太鼓), and a few months ago I had the chance to see them again at the Yushima Tenjin festival in Tokyo’s Taito Ward. They performed three complete sets at the back of the shrine, all the times with the same energy and smiles! Japanese taiko drumming is a quite physical experience to see. You can feel the drums in your stomach and if you stand too close you can feel the air pounding in your ears. It is a fantastic form of music! The performances I saw this time was almost totally done by women, except for one young man. I really hope I can catch them again a few times this year!
Usually when I take photos I never bother cropping them when I edit them. I try to do all my cropping before I take the photo. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. I prefer my photos un-cropped not only because they look more “true” in my eyes (as if the physical act of acquiring a subject, composing in your viewfinder and then pressing the trigger to have your computer analyze a sensor image and interpret it for you wasn’t quite far removed from truth anyway) but also because it saves me a lot of time not to worry too much about cropping in post processing. Sometimes you’ll see a photo with a very strange composition, usually it is not me trying to be arty, rather it is just that I tried to avoid taking photos of something just outside the photo frame!
One of the most spectacular aspects of the Kurayami Matsuri in Tokyo’s western Fuchu City is the huge drum. There are six of these massive beasts that can carry four men and are drawn by up to two dozen others. Instead of normal drumsticks they use two thick and stubby baseball bats, one in each hand. There is a certain rhythm, three quick strokes, followed by a slow draw during which the overseer standing on top of the drum lowers his paper lantern while chanting a single drawn out word. Two drummer per drum, and six to a festival, spread out over a square kilometer, creates a sound almost like a scene from a war movie. It’s an almost hypnotic thing to see! In the old days only the strongest men were allowed but these days women and kids take part in the drumming as well and I caught one young man eagerly awaiting his turn at the drum. The most enthusiastic drummers who manage to combine massive strength with a decorum fitting the occasion usually draws a lot of applause and the appreciative nods from the more experienced old men in the crowd. One day I wouldn’t mind having a go at them.