Scattered throughout the festival area during the huge Kawagoe Matsuri last weekend were these Hayashi stands, on the side of the street a group of dancers and musicians entertain the people with one of the four most common characters, the Hyottoko, the man with funny face, or his wife Okame, or the lion or the white haired fox spirit. There are others, but these four are the most common. It is considered good luck to shake hands with the Hyottoko, flirt with the Okame or get bitten on the head by the lion, so parents will often hold up their kids. Some kids are absolutely terrified at the prospect of being attacked by a crazy demon but some don’t seem to mind one bit. Some older kids know what is coming and are eager to test their courage, others are smart and run away before their parents make them endure it once again. It is all great fun to watch though, and a shared moment for both participants and audience. I took these photos in the rain, hence the plastic sheet coverings over the paper lanterns on the front of the platform. There were a lot of really brave kids this time! The smallest one did’t mind at all and even dabbed at the lion with his little towel.
The most famous aspect of the huge Kawaogoe festival that took place this rainy last weekend are the massive five or six ton dashi, wagons pulled by the local townspeople. These stop every now and then to let the top part of the wagon swivel so that it lines up with the viewing platforms set up by the local merchant associations sponsoring the festival. There are many of these scattered around the town and the wagons make a point of performing for them every time they pass. Passing one of these platforms with one giant dashi right on my heels I decided to pick as spot and wait, making sure I was in the right spot for when the short performance started. I was looking as much at the dashi as at the people both under and on top of the viewing platform, it was great fun to the the enthusiasm! There are several hayashi dancers on each platform, taking turns to perform. By the time the dashi had reach the platform the fox dancer had retreated and the comical Okame or Hyottoko dancer was out to perform (I can’t really tell which one from the angle of the photo). The men whose job it is to use hooks and poles to ward of bits of architecture, cables and street lights getting into the way of the dashi were waving us good bye as the dashi slowly lumbered of to the next spot along the street. These dashi move at about half normal walking speed so even in a full day and night of moving they seldom move past the same platform more than a couple of times per festival! On this first day of the festival (which was really rainy and wet in the beginning) there were supposedly nine dashi out and about! More photos to come!
If you are in Tokyo or neighboring Saitama prefecture this weekend the best way to spend it is of course to visit the massive Kawagoe Festival. A huge two day festival in the city nicknamed “Koedo” (Little Edo) for its many Edo period buildings and streets still remaining. The festival is known for its many dashi, mobile platforms each representing one of the neighborhoods in the city, paid for and operated by the towns people themselves. The weather is usually pretty good this time of the year but this weekend has seen nothing but rain and it was pouring when I visited Kawagoe yesterday. I took these photos of on dashi maneuvering through the narrow streets next to Kawagoeshi station, covered in plastic sheeting and pulled by rain coat wearing townspeople. The Tokyo and Kanto areas are usually blessed with fantastic weather most of the year so being outside shooting in the rain is a little bit exotic for me. On each of these dashi there is a hayashi team, a team of folk musicians and dancers performing for the crowds. Flute and drums, usually. If you feel brave enough to ignore the rain the festival kicks off in an hour or so!
Yesterday I forewent my usual visit to the second day of the Koenji Awaodori or the Otsuka Awaodori and instead went up to Minamikoshigaya in Saitama prefecture north of Tokyo. I don’t get many chances or reasons to visit the city so on top seeing one of the more famous Awaodori festivals I also get to throw in some sightseeing! There are four major parade grounds on this huge festival attracting about 70 different teams from all over Japan. The grounds are all four lane streets so there’s plenty of space for the dancers and the city throws in sheeting for anyone to sit on along the parade grounds, making this the ideal Awaodori festival for families with kids. There’s also two different stages, one informal stage where you can get right up next to the dancers and one bigger proper stage where I took these photos of the Kimuraren (きむら連). Good lighting, good sound, and a great chance for all the teams to show what they have really been practicing all those winter months!
This festival is a three day event and well worth putting into your calendar for next year, especially if you live in Saitama!