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!
I must admit, before I came to Japan my only notion of the pacific island of Saipan was as the name of famous World War 2 battle. I was honestly surprised when my Japanese friend’s father proudly showed me photos of the summer house he had bought on the island. From the pictures I saw, it was a little piece of paradise, far from the black and white press photos I had seen in history books a kid. Over the years I learned that Japan and Saipan has quite a friendly relationship these days, and even though I have never visited, I plan to go someday soon.
At the annual Koenji Awaodori festival in August, I was enjoying the music and the dancers when I spotted a few unusual young dancers in one of the most famous awaodori groups, Tensuiren. There is a handful of foreigners in the parade every year but usually not kids. Their dancing was fantastic, totally on par with the older Japanese they were with, a few of them were even so energetic that I hardly had time to shoot, hence these less than perfect shots (the blur is less from their movement and more from the fact that it was too dark for my cameras auto focus, i.e., I didn’t get a proper lock on them). Beautiful kids, dancing perfectly! A few days later I am at home editing the photos and get a friend to do a web search for me by using their name tags. It turns out that they were part of a cultural program from Saipan! I didn’t get all of their names, or all of the participants, but I remember their energy and how happy they looked: Virginia, Ann, Itheyvin (and someone called ***ody). The people of Tensuiren did a great job training these kids! You can read more about them in Saipan’s newspaper, Saipan Tribune, here and here. If you happen to be from Saipan, or know anyone who knows these kids, please pass a link to this blog to them! I really hope they get to see these pictures. I am happy they got the chance to participate in this great festival. I wish I could have done that when I was their age!
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