Tokyobling's Blog

Yoshiwara Gionsai – Ladder Acrobatics

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on July 7, 2014

At the Yoshiwara Gionsai in Shizuoka Prefecture’s Fuji City last month I saw the local firefighters perform their traditional ladder acrobatics. I am sucker for these performances and never miss one if I am in the general area. This ladder team was very talented and it was a pleasure seeing some new faces (for me). They also performed one of the very rare three person acrobatics!

I have blogged a lot about this kind of traditional Japanese culture before, so if you want to read more about this, just use the tags at the end of the post!

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Koenji Awaodori Festival – August Event

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on July 1, 2014

At the end of August every year Tokyo prepares for the massive Koenji Awaodori parade and performance. Over 10 000 dancers from all over Japan join in to make this two day event one of the biggest traditional dance festivals in the country. Koenji is not big and the place get absolutely packed as hundreds of thousands of people cram into every available alley and sidewalk to watch the hundreds of teams performing.

Last year I visited on one of the days, and saw dozens of teams, three of which I share here. The Wakakomaren (若駒連) from Tokyo, the Hamamatsuren (浜松連) from Shizuoka Prefecture’s Hamamatsu City, and the Yamagata ‘ndazuren (山形んだず連) obviously from Yamagata prefecture. Although the official homeland of Awaodori is in Shikoku’s Tokushima Prefecture the attraction of this kind of dance is so powerful that it has spread all over the country.

If you are in Tokyo during August 23rd and 24th, don’t miss this big event!

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Ometaisai People – Western Tokyo

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on June 29, 2014

The more isolated the town is, in general the more local the festival gets. The grand Ometaisai in the little city of Ome in western Tokyo is a good example of a festival that is for and by the local people living in the community.

One a little peculiar thing with this festival is the massively oversized pair of hyoshigi (拍子木), two wooden blocks tied together with a rope. The blocks are banged together to make a simple and effective signal able to carry over the noise of the festival. Usually they are much smaller, but in Ome the ones used are positively huge. There are a few festivals in central Tokyo that also uses these kind of large hyoshigi. The head of the neighborhood has to be really careful not to catch his finger while clapping!

Each neighborhood team fields a slightly different troupe, some of them have groups of young girls and sometimes boys dressed as little geisha, and they all wear differently colored happi, the short colorful coat worn by all participants in a festival. I especially liked the yellow happi of the people of Hinatawada (日向和田) a few kilometers down the road from Ome Station. Their happi features a matoi, one of my favorite Japanese objects! It is a tasseled pole used traditionally by firefighters from all over the country.

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Battling Dashi – Ometaisai

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on June 26, 2014

In Japan there are many kinds of festivals and there a dozens of ways to celebrate them. One of the more common ways is by having individual neighborhoods in the city or the parish to field their own dashi (山車), which are mobile, often huge, mini-shrines. Some are small hand pulled affairs barely large enough to contain a couple of kids on drums while others are massive things wheels that are almost two meters tall, engines, and place for a full traditional orchestra! The musicians are part of hayashi-troupes, with percussion, flutes and dancers they entertain the audience and please both Gods and spirits with their loud and lively music. The dashi are often involved in “battles” when they pass other dash on a parade, and even when they pass special mini stages or shrine they will offer battle with them, trying to throw the others off their rhythm or style.

I took these photos of the festival and the dashi at the annual Ometaisai, Ome Grand Festival, in early May. Another fun detail most people tend to notice is the traditional play with masks that in this ago mass consumerism takes the form of neat little plastic masks for kids and youngsters. There are lots of characters to chose from, traditional to new!

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