Yesterday was a national holiday, the Seijin no hi, which roughly translates as the coming of age day. It is a day to celebrate all the people that turn twenty during the year, and thus turn into fully fledged adults. In Tokyo it also happened to be the day of one of the biggest snow storms for many many years! Tokyo was thick with snow and on any street you happened to pass you would see cars that were stuck in the sticky snow or cars that were unable to go uphill. I and a couple of other random people who walked past one minivan that was hopelessly stuck managed to get it moving after about 15 minutes of pushing and heaving. Great fun, but not very typical of Tokyo winter weather. Usually you see thousands of beautifully dressed young people but despite spending the day outside I did not see more than a handful, as several train lines had stopped running all subway lines were delayed more or less throughout the day. Here are two beauties that I managed to stop and ask to take a picture of! Normally it isn’t this easy to get people to pose, but I think they realized how special the situation was! As a bonus, the last photo is of a taxi who after struggling for 10 minutes trying to go up the slight incline of a hill decided to turn around and go back instead, it took 3 people the better part of half an hour to get the taxi away! Luckily there was very little traffic on the streets today.
The start of the Awaodori festival season is still many months away but it’s never too early to start promoting some of the many teams that will brighten our festivals in the summer to come! Here’s a mix of beauties of different ages from three different dance teams, the Daikonren, the Koseinenkinbyouinren and the famous Tokyo Tensuiren.
Autumn is here and it is getting chilly. Too chilly to go outside in only a shirt, at least in the evenings. It’s certainly a relief to be able to go outside without being drenched in sweat but I already miss summer and the fantastic summer festivals, so in a moment of nostalgia I look over some of the festival photos that I didn’t think about publishing, taken earlier this year. One of the most low-key but interesting festivals must be the Kagurazaka Matsuri in Shinjku Ward’s most hippest district. It’s rapidly turning into a tourist attraction, like a mini-Kyoto in Tokyo. In fact, Kagurazaka is the only place in Tokyo where I have seen real geisha in the streets, not once but twice. The Kagurazaka festival is held in July each year, with food and drink stalls set up along the long sloping road and even some live performances by famous singers, I saw Hitomi Matsunaga perform at a temple on the side of Kagurazaka street, and enka really adds to the mood of any festival! The beautiful Ms. Matsunaga sings enka that is a bit sweeter and not quite so nostalgic as others, making her music a bit more fitting for these festive occasions. If you’ve never heard of enka music, you can see one video of her performing here. Be warned though – enka is easily the variety of Japanese pop music that foreigners (and Japanese too for that matter) find it hardest to enjoy.
It was great to see all kinds of people come out for the festival, from people in suits straight from the office to kids, young couples and even some very well dressed beautiful young ladies. In fact, most of the shops had a discount for anyone dressed in traditional Japanese clothes, so there was a large percentage of both men and women dressed really nicely! Even in these festivals though there are a lot of people working, taxi drivers ferrying guests, restaurant staff manning the booths, neighborhood associations organizing games and events, the temple priests were busier than ever, sound engineers to make sure the beautiful music is carried across the entire festival area, delivery men making sure the restaurants are stocked and security guards working extra to make sure traffic runs smoothly and that no one gets injured. And even though there were a lot of drinking, nobody got too drunk or aggressive. Just another perfect festival in a civilized society. I love Japan!
Last weekend was mini Awaodori heaven for us who have seen the light! There’s basically three events that can’t be missed on the Awaodori calendar, the main event in Tokushima, the two day massive festival in Koenji (both in August) and this one, the last weekend of July when the whole of the Kanto region goes Awaodori crazy. There were festivals all from Kanagawa to Chiba with Awaodori performances, with several going on in greater Tokyo at the same time. Too bad you can only be at one place at a time! So I spent Friday at the parade in Kagurazaka (神楽坂), mainly because I wanted a chance to see two of my favorite teams perform at the same time but also because Kagurazaka has a really good mix of dedicated teams and beginners. One of the most famous teams at Kagurazaka must be the Tenguren (天狗連), using the mythical winged tengu demon/spirit as their symbol. Tenguren has a very cute and dedicated kids troupe called Kotengu (小天狗), or the mini-tengu. In a few years I hope to see these kids graduated and moved up to the regular Tenguren troupe! I love the way Japanese society works in which they send the youngest and most inexperienced members out first, to really boost their confidence and skill – not only in Awaodori but also in business! Often in large Japanese corporations you’ll meet very junior members participating in very large and important business projects.
Not only are these kotengu very cute, they also have these fantastic green and white costumes with what I call the rabbit ears headband! I am sure there is a proper name for this style of headband. Enjoy!