A couple of weekends ago saw the grand Hachioji Matsuri, one of the bigger city festivals in the Kanto region and in my opinion, one of the most accessible. Hachioji is a city in western Tokyo, with a population of over half a million people it is the 8th largest in Tokyo. I didn’t think I would be able to make it to this year’s festival but I found some free time and made it out there. Hachioji Matsuri has everything, music, people, dashi (large festival wagons), omikoshi, parades, dancers and of course, the stands of hayashi groups performing throughout the city, like this one. Lion dancers and a lone demon dancers entertained the public and played traditional hayashi style music of percussion and flutes. The dancer looked quite well dresses, it must have been exhausting in the near 35 degree heat!
Sunday’s Awaodori festival in Setagaya Ward’s Shimokitazawa was just as amazing as usual. The whole night and day before the festival saw strong winds and rain which lasted until 5 minutes before the festival was due to start, when the rain and clouds disappeared in perfect meteorological timing. As the festival kicked off the streets were nearly empty but people soon returned and by the end it was almost as crowded as usual.
I saw one of my favorite teams, the ever fantastic Yattokoren (やっとこ連) in their cool looking green-orange-white uniforms. I have blogged about them earlier here and here. If you missed this festival you have your big chance at the end of this month, the grand Koenji Awaodori Festival, the biggest Awaodori festival outside of Tokushima and one of the biggest festivals in Tokyo period.
Tonight – if we can persuade the weather Gods to let up on the rain – will be the second evening of the grand Shimokitazawa Awaodori festival. I was there last night and it was as good as usual with all the teams doing their best. The coming rains made last night unseasonably cool so it was near perfect Awaodori weather. I saw Benkeiren (弁慶連), one of my favorites, which I also blogged about when they took part in the Koenji Awadori festival in 2012. Comparing the photos you can tell that some of their very talented (really) kid dancers have grown quite a bit!
If you are in Tokyo tonight – head over to Shimokitazawa.
At last year’s Kitazawa Hachimangu Matsuri (festival) in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward I saw one of the most ancient forms of ritual court dances, the Kochonomai, or butterfly dance. It probably arrived to Japan from Korea in the 8th century and has been completely unaltered ever since. The dance is performed by four or eight maidens (which in modern days usually means children) with colorful costumes performing a ritual dance symbolizing the seasons. In their hands they hold branches of the Yamabuki (Kerria japonica), a rose relative that is native to Japan, Korea and China.
Japan has somehow managed to preserve many of their earliest rituals and ceremonies and for the average person, over a millennium removed, they can be difficult to understand. I will have to study this more, but in the meantime, we can just enjoy the colorful dresses and the wonderful tradition of the dances and music!