If you are in Tokyo today you should make some time to go see the big Mitaka Awaodori festival taking place tonight from six. Mitaka (三鷹) is in western Tokyo but quite near central Tokyo so the train ride is a painless ride on the central Chuo or Sobu lines. I was there yesterday, my first visit to this festival and I must say their organization was spot on! Well defined areas for the parade, no bunching up or late starts among the teams. Despite the size of the festival it is quite the local affair, with several Mitaka based teams taking part, but also one of my favorite smaller teams, the Kaguraren. So hurry up, pack your festival gear and head on west to Mitaka!
I don’t know about your country, but just sometimes even amateur folk dance troupes get the rock star treatment! It happened at the end of the Awaodori festival in Tokyo’s Shimokitzawa district last weekend, the Shinoburen from Koenji performed their set piece on barely enough ground to walk on, let alone dance. There were just so many people crowded around to catch the set. People cheered, clapped and shouted encouragement to the dancers as they braved near record levels of heat to entertain us. It must be great to be the center of all that love and energy! If you have ever seen an Awaodori street performance like this you will know what I mean when I say that I was enjoying the buzz from an Awodori high! Granted, Shinoburen is one of the bigger and more famous teams in Tokyo, but I dare say they have some of the most dedicated fans! I really can’t wait for the huge Koenji festival in Tokyo at the end of this month. Just a few more days to go…!
This weekend we saw some of the highest temperatures we have seen in Tokyo for many years. At least I can’t remember any weekend that has been hotter than this. Other parts of Japan were hotter! Walking outside in these temperatures is like walking into a wall of heat. The air inside your clothes is cooler than the air outside so you can actually feel the heat as you walk around. And then when the heat reaches your skin the sweat starts running…! All in all, not the best conditions for a two hour dance parade! Still, the annual and fantastic Awaodori festival in Tokyo’s Shimokitazawa town took place as usual, with several teams braving the heat to perform the traditional dance and music from the southern Tokushima prefecture. The heat had drained the energy levels of several participants but still they did fantastically, especially the famous Shinoburen (忍連), whom I have blogged about before here and here. These guys are really dedicated. If you visit the huge Awaodori festival in Koenji at the end of this month you might be lucky enough to see them perform!
Tonight is the second and final day of the bonodori festival in Tokyo’s central Hibiya Park. It is the biggest bonodori festival in Tokyo and the organizers expect 20 000 dancers and tourists every day. Apart from the dancing that takes place around the massive fountain in the middle of the park there is also live enka singing and plenty of food and drinks. I visited last night and took these photos. The sheer size of the festival makes it a difficult event to photography but I did my best! I also took part in the charity lottery event, for 300 yen you get a ticket and a tenugui (the green handkerchief you can see in some of the photos). The ticket is a relatively easy win, about 125 prizes for 1000 tickets! Alas, I didn’t win anything this year. If you are interested in taking part in the lottery I recommend buy a ticket the first thing you do when you arrive, they sell out early. Even if you lose the money goes to charity so it’s a win-win for everyone. Besides 300 yen for a custom tenugui is pretty cheap as souvenirs go! As usual the dancing is accompanied by live taiko drummers. Even though today and tonight looks like near record levels of heat (the weather symbol this morning was not a sun – it was clothes tumbler, and I have been in cooler saunas that the outside hear this morning) it is always great to get out and about on the weekends here in Tokyo. Enjoy!