Japan is full of cities, towns and villages and they all have one thing in common – the ever present shoutengai. A shougtengai can be translated as a shopping street, a place where many little shops and stores crowd together to attract customers from all over the neighborhood. They all have their own ruling committees, quirks and specialities and one of the quirkiest must be the shoutengai in Daishimachi, the are right in front of the huge Kawasaki Daishi near the border to Tokyo. This is the place to stock up on traditional sweets, good luck charms, daruma dolls and all manner of semi-religious trinkets and cookies! If you’re in the area to visit the big temple, make sure to take the little detour and approach it from the shoutengai.
The speciality here to look out for is hard to miss, it is the traditional sweet and very sticky tontoko-ame, a nougat-like white paste that takes its name from the unmistakable tontoko-tontoko sounding hacking boards of the men who cut them up from long strings on big wooden slabs. The rival stores up and down the street will engage in a rhythmic cutting match, trying to overdo each other and attract customers at the same time. Actually, when they are waiting for the next batch of tontoko-paste they just hammer the cutting boards with the handles of their knives, making even more noise. Some of the rhythms are very catchy! The tontoko-ame is easily one of the best souvenirs you can get in the whole of Kanagawa prefecture!
I had a good place at this year’s Awaodori Festival in Kawasaki City, in Tokyo’s neighbor Kanagawa Prefecture. I was able to see the first team lining up for their first dance, the Mitakaren (みたか連). A great festival and a great performance from this gorgeous team based in western Tokyo’s Mitaka City (三鷹市). The city and dance team’s name is means three hawks in English, hence the birds and feather symbols on their wonderful uniforms. A lot of photos this time, I hope you don’t mind waiting for the load time!
As a huge fan of Awaodori, I have a long list of favorite teams, and one of them is the Yattokoren, from Tokyo’s hip Shimokitazawa district. Yattokoren was on the first teams I followed actively and it is great fun to catch them a few times every year to check on their progress and the old and new members. They are overall a very good group with good dancers of all ages, but when I saw them last Saturday at the Kawasaki Awaodori Festival down in Kanagawa Prefecture I was truck by the exceedingly cool looking female drummer in the 11th photo, she spent most of the performance looking so utterly cool about herself I just had to get her picture! Yattokoren also has some very cool male drummers, cute kids and fantastic smiles. I just love this team! Sorry for the amount of photos in this post, 17 in all, I just had to include them all!
It’s time for the Awaodori post of the week! This time it’s a non-Tokyo team for a change. This is the Kawasaki Ichouren from the city Kawasaki bordering to Tokyo but in Kanagawa prefecture (and before you ask, not the place where the famous motorcycles are made!). I took these photos at the Kawasaki Awaodori Matsuri, a large yearly event where the teams only perform set pieces rather than the more usual parade. For me it was a big change to see only the sets performed and it took some getting used to. For this team, I ended up standing on the wrong side of where the troupe was facing, so I had much much fewer opportunities than normal to shoot them! There were a couple of adorable “chibi” (little ones) at the set and when they weren’t dancing grandma had to take charge of the situation! This troupe has some fierce dancers and I was really miffed that I couldn’t get a better view. Well, I got a few decent shots I think. Next time I see this troupe I’ll be better prepared! There’s one picture where you can easily see one of the most famous male dance moves, staying really really close to the ground. I have no idea how they can keep at this for hours on end.