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.
I saw these two wonderfully cute little wadaiko (taiko) drummers in Mishima in the middle of last month. They performed as a mixed group of local taiko groups and drummers from some towns in Miyagi prefecture that are trying to rebuild themselves. It was an excellent perfumers. I love how these two just look so professional before going on stage. I wish I could be this cool!
Every summer Tokyo is full of festivals. In a city of over 12.5 millions it’s only to be expected that you can’t find all of the festivals. I have been here over a decade and still there are festivals I have never even heard of passing by every week, even if I make a point of seeing them I end up missing them several years in a row. It’s difficult to even find information about them, so I guess I was just lucky to be told by someone who knew someone who had head about the little known and very local festival in Tokyo’s Edogawa Ward, just next to Chiba prefecture, near Kasai Station on the Tozai subway line. The Nagashima Yakumo Shrine festival (長島八雲神社例大祭) is so unknown that even the festival captain, a big, bald, handsome man with an even bigger and friendlier personality picked me out in the crowd of the out of towners who had come to look, all two of us! I really hadn’t expected to find such a local festival right in Tokyo so I was very pleasantly surprised! These photos are from near the end of the festival when the three omikoshi gathers at the shrine for the final ceremony. Accompanied by an expert but all to brief performance by a small all female taiko drummer troupe. I think there must be a lot of seriously beautiful people in Kasai! But the final event was even more interesting, on stage we were suddenly greeted by Mr. Kurita Kanichi (栗田貫一) who is not only a famous comedian and talented singer (well, most Japanese are actually pretty good singers) but also the voice actor of one of the most famous classic anime shows in the history of Japanese television: Lupin the Third! How lucky am I!? I think he must be a local celebrity lending a bit of glamour to the festival.