If you spend a lot of time attending Awaodori festivals in and around Tokyo you are bound to grow fond of a few certain dancers or teams, all of us Awaodori fans have our own favorites! Here’s one team – Kikusuiren 菊水連 – that has more than their fair share of dancers with perfect smiles! The fantastically gorgeous woman in the first photo has a smile that is right up there in the Awaodori All Stars! And what about the otherworldly pose I managed to catch her in? Marvellous! And just look at the intensity of the young guys – they are going to go far! Especially the guy giving an excellent almost spring-loaded low stance just to break out in what almost looks like a ballet pose! Fantastic. Seeing people like these is one of the reasons I can never tire of this fantastic country!
Yesterday morning we actually had a bit of snow north of Tokyo and it’s really getting colder, so I spent a few minutes dreaming about summer by going over these photos from the Omiya Summer Festival earlier in the summer. I can’t wait for summer to come again next year! This was a rare group with only young member, I did shoot some video too but my camera microphone didn’t stand a chance against a dozen or so drummers at full blast just feet away, so the video turned out unusable. Drumming is a little bit special in Japanese culture, I believe it is one of the few socially accepted ways in which young Japanese are allowed to make a lot of noise so some parents like to encourage their kids to take up drumming to boost their self expression and confidence. That is also one of the reasons young athletes and students tend to scream a lot during sports in or after school, it is encouraged by the teachers, and when I was in a sports club at university here in Tokyo we were told that no points could be awarded without a good, long shout! These taiko drummers were shouting while drumming. And they do look very confident.
Here’s the continuation of yesterday’s post, some shots of the Ahouren awaodori dance team kids! It’s too late to find out now, but I wonder if I could have done such a great job dancing as these kids when I was their age? I doubt it! Not only are these kids super cute to watch, it’s also reassuring to see that the future of awaodori dancing seems safe! Most of these kids performed well even though their parents were mostly well out of sight behind them. I can imagine it takes a lot of courage to go out in front of a dance troupe cheered by thousands, like this!
These days there are quite a few awaodori dance teams around the country. Many of them are local teams made up of companies, interest groups, neighborhoods or even artist dance teams. Any reader of this blog can’t have failed to spot my near obsession with this folk dance so please forgive me for posting even more photos! At the Omiya Summer Festival I saw this team for the first time, Ahouren, or 阿呆連 in Japanese. Ahou, as most students of regional Japanese dialect well know, is a word that means idiot but in the traditional sense it is used in way like the word idiot is used in “village idiot”, a harmless and often lovable fool. As a word it is often used together with or as a contrast to the more mainstream “baka”, but foreigners beware, both are strong words and have different intensities in different parts of the country. The fool though, is the central aspect of this dance and the traditional theme of awaodori is in essence that since all people are basically a fool in one way or another, why not give up pretentions and just enjoy it all?
Ahouren is one of those groups based in the holy homeland of Awaodori, Tokushima prefecture in Shikoku, the smallest of Japan’s four main islands. For people like me who has never visited Tokushima it’s a rare chance to see one of the home teams in action here in eastern Japan!
As with all awaodori teams, first comes the children, often performing the same part as the traditional male dance, led by a senior member of the team whose job it is to set the pace and make sure they don’t run into the team ahead. These lead seniors often carry a heavy pole, banner or lantern displaying the name of the team so it’s not an easy position. As I saw the team coming I knelt down to get a better angle but it also meant I was pointing my camera right into the lamps put up in front of Omiya station, even at that distance the lights produced these weird arrow shaped lens flares that I don’t think you can imitate with the normal Photoshop lens flare filter. As you can see in the third photo, not all the kids have the stamina to dance 3 hours straight, thankfully there are mothers close at hand to help out.
The last photo is actually the first, while I was waiting for Ahouren to start, I saw these two kids on the other side of the street seemingly very interested in the team that had passed and were still visible further down the street. Too cute to miss! More photos of Ahouren tomorrow, but if you can’t wait till then they also have a homepage here.