There’s so many festivals, events and performances going on today here in Tokyo that you are agonizing over which one to go to right now! I won’t list them all, but one event that is worth attending if you haven’t been to many festivals this year, is the Nezu Shrine festival, the main event being today. I went there yesterday and saw this great performance by the Nezu Gongendaiko (根津権現太鼓) taiko drum group. They have two performances today and later on at night they also perform a much more limited set at the nearby bonodori street party. The performance I saw was an all woman drummer event and they were great. Groups with male drummers tend to focus more on raw power whereas the ladies are more into group interaction, one drummer will pick up the rhythm of another, and showy drum movements, switching drums or hitting more than one drum at a time. It’s great fun to watch and you really must be there because I have yet to hear a recording or see a video that comes even close to capturing what it really sounds like.
At the Koenji Awodori festivals there are so many teams, called “ren” taking part that you will never be able to see them all, so either you find a spot where you can see as many of your favorite teams as possible (the teams starting positions are released well ahead of the festival start) or you run from position to position to see only your favorite teams. The latter strategy is not recommended, because not only will you always be several rows of people removed from the front but you’ll also risk missing teams that are ahead or behind schedule.
One of my all time favorite teams is the Tensuiren, who happens to have one of the best drum sections of any team I have ever seen. Their drummers are absolutely amazing, and this year I was lucky enough to have all members of the drum section stop right in front of me and perform one of their drum battles! I can tell you I was not the only member of the audience with goose bumps after that! The tensuiren sometimes have several members from Saipan, an island under American jurisdiction in Micronesia in the Pacific Island. I have seen these young men and women over the years and every time I see them they have gotten better. This time they were so good as to be indistinguishable from the native Japanese members of one of the best teams in Tokyo! That is a feat not to take lightly. I really hope I can seem them soon again.
And if you want to see more of Tensuiren, here is a blogpost from 2010. You’ll recognize some of the kids from this year’s performance!
Just at the start of this year I blogged about a chance walk in on a performance by the fantastic taiko group Yushima Tenjin Shiraume Taiko group (湯島天神白梅太鼓), and a few months ago I had the chance to see them again at the Yushima Tenjin festival in Tokyo’s Taito Ward. They performed three complete sets at the back of the shrine, all the times with the same energy and smiles! Japanese taiko drumming is a quite physical experience to see. You can feel the drums in your stomach and if you stand too close you can feel the air pounding in your ears. It is a fantastic form of music! The performances I saw this time was almost totally done by women, except for one young man. I really hope I can catch them again a few times this year!
Usually when I take photos I never bother cropping them when I edit them. I try to do all my cropping before I take the photo. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. I prefer my photos un-cropped not only because they look more “true” in my eyes (as if the physical act of acquiring a subject, composing in your viewfinder and then pressing the trigger to have your computer analyze a sensor image and interpret it for you wasn’t quite far removed from truth anyway) but also because it saves me a lot of time not to worry too much about cropping in post processing. Sometimes you’ll see a photo with a very strange composition, usually it is not me trying to be arty, rather it is just that I tried to avoid taking photos of something just outside the photo frame!
The few holidays after New Year’s is vital to Tokyo’s shopping districts and department stores do their best to lure customers with sales, bargain bags and performances! La Foret, one of the premier youth fashion department stores in the world put up this performance by the Yushima Tenjin Shiraume Taiko group (湯島天神白梅太鼓), which has to be one of the most beautiful taiko drum groups in the world! It was packed with people already before they started but somehow I managed to wriggle my way to the front where I crouched down (so as not to bother the people behind me) and go these pictures. They were just as fantastic as they look!