Possibly one of the greatest Awaodori festivals in Kanagawa Prefecture took place a couple of weeks ago in the city of Yamato. Unlike the shopping street dominated festivals of Tokyo this takes place on the wide roads and streets surrounding the main station, similar in feel to the mighty Minamikoshigaya Awaodori festival in Saitama Prefecture. The festival start was severely delayed by massive rains that managed to soak more than one team. Fortunately in this kind of summer heat even a complete soaking is not likely be more than an inconvenience and the festival finished without a problem.
One of my favorite teams was the local Shinbashiren (新橋連) who put on a massive performance and were one of the big crowd pleasers with some very talented younger dancers. If you are in Tokyo or the Yokohama area this time next year, do not miss this great festival!
If you are in Tokyo tonight and looking for something fun to see I recommend visiting the Koujiya Awaodori festival in Tokyo’s Ota Ward, not far from the Haneda Airport. It is a two day event starting tonight and ending tomorrow Saturday, from 1900 to 2100. Koujiya Station is on the Keikyu Airport Line (Keikyukukousen), but it is also possible to walk there from the Keikyu Kamata Station (less than 15 minutes) or the Kamata Station (less than 25 minutes) if you are less keen on the trains.
One of the teams performing tonight will be the Gorakuren (伍楽連), a team from the neighboring Kanagawa Prefecture’s city of Sagamihara. I know most photographers focus on the wonderful looking women of Awaodori but there are a lot of very cool men also performing in each of the teams. Here are some of the guys dancing and drumming for Gorakuren!
Last Saturday saw the one day only, once a year Kitamachi Awaodori Festival in Tokyo’s Nerima Ward, just next to Tobu-Nerima Station. Kitamachi is the original heart of the modern day Nerima Ward and it was one of the biggest way stations on the Edo period highway between Edo (ancient Tokyo) and Kawagoe to the north in Saitama prefecture. At these way stations transports of goods, people and information was made easier by the reserves of men and horses standing by and the way station in Kitamachi was famous for being able to provide a full compliment of horses unlike other way stations that often had to call for help from neighboring villages when large groups or big transports came through. This pride in their horses and the local people’s skill in taming them became the base for the modern name of the ward, Nerima (練馬).
The old highway is perfectly suitable for festivals and parades like the Awaodori summer festivals being organized every year around Tokyo. I saw many teams, some new, some familiar, some famous and some peculiar ones. One of the most famous must be the Shinoburen who did a great performance despite the weather. The end of July is usually one of the hottest periods of the year in Tokyo and temperatures stay in the mid thirties well in to the night making the three hours of dancing extremely hard on the performers. I have even seen members of the audience drop down from the heat and all they did was sitting down and enjoying the show! Despite Kitamachi being one of the physically most demanding Awaodori festivals in Tokyo it remains popular with especially the locals.
Last night saw the start of the fantastic Kagurazaka Awaodori Festival, the third day in four day Kagurazaka Matsuri. The last day is tonight with the kid’s teams performing from 1800 to 1900 and then the adult’s teams from 1900 to 2100. You can get to Kagurazaka from either Iidabashi station, Ushigome Kagurazaka or Kagurazaka stations. The further up you go on the street the fewer people you are likely to have to fight for a good spot with, so if it seems to crowded down hill just keep walking to the second area of the festival!
Last night I took these photos of the always fantastic Tenguren and their little Kotenguren kids. I can’t get enough of this team! Even though Awaodori dance is traditionally from Tokushima Prefecture there are dozens of great teams here in Tokyo!