If you have free time in Tokyo tonight and are not too afraid of a little rain I recommend visiting Kyodo for their fantastic Awaodori festival, complete with a parade and stage set. Actually it is part of a two day local town festival which ties in with the Tokyo University of Agriculture, so rather than the normal shrine celebrations you will get everything from folk dance (mainly Saturday) to samba (on the Sunday). You can get more details from their homepage (in Japanese only) but generally the Awaodori kicks in from 1830 to 1900 on Saturday. I have never seen the samba carnival my self but it looks fantastic and starts at 1830 on Sunday. There is stuff happening from 1430 on Saturday and from 1400 on Sunday so even if you can’t stay for the whole thing it is worth going and just enjoying the atmosphere.
Here are some photos of the proud local team, the Kyodo Murasakiren (経堂むらさき連) who will be performing with eight other, all relatively well known Tokyo teams, including a couple of my personal favorites.
Awaodori festival season has started and one of the bigger festivals of the summer is the Shimokitzawa Awaodori festival. It’s a two day event, on the 9th and 10th of August, from 18:30 to 20:30. The narrow streets of Shimokitazawa makes for a very intimate and friendly festival where the audience is very close to the dancers. The drummers especially can be dangerous so it is usually best to stand back a little.
I saw the Yattokoren at last year’s festival, one of the local Shimokitazawa teams. The shotengai, or shopping street, where the festival takes place is called Ichibangai which has been place of commerce since the 1920s and really grew big after the second world war as most if survived the bombings and many merchants from other areas flocked to Shimokitazawa. The Awaodori festival was started in 1966 and this year’s festival will be the 49th.
Shimokitazawa is a great place to hang out and there’s plenty of shops and unique little restaurants and alleys to explore, so if you have time in August this year, make sure to visit!
The festival has an English homepage here.
More photos from the first day of the Mitamamatsuri at Yasukuni Shrine in central Tokyo. The four day event continues until Wednesday so there’s still plenty of time to see it all! One of the many performances I always try to catch is the awaodori dance by the local team, Kitanogomonren (北の御門連). Few awaodori performances take place at more beautiful places than among the many lanterns of the Mitamamatsuri.
If you are free tonight or tomorrow from 1800 I recommend going to see the festival for yourself!
Last month’s Yoshiwara Gionsai was just as exciting and fun as usual. I could only make it there for the second day, missing the huge tree procession of the day before. One of the peculiar things about this local festival is the omikoshi which is covered in bamboo grass and moved in a way that is different from most other omikoshi. It is take around the parish districts by teams divided by neighborhood and at each handover an ceremony where a bottle of sea water is emptied over the head of the headsman of the omikoshi team. Although many omikoshi teams are now unisex this one is still only open to males, for at least one obvious reason I would only discover when actually trying to lift the omikoshi: it is incredibly physically demanding and space is very limited, so you need as many of the strongest people you can fit, and preferably all of the same height! There is even several points in the procession where the omikoshi stops and is jumped up and down. I don’t know if the sense of fear is stronger than the sense of pain and exhaustion, but failure is not an option!
It is great fun to follow the omikoshi careening through the streets. In the old days it used to be even wilder and different neighborhoods would wrestle for control of it – in mid procession! But a few years ago a straying omikoshi took out a whole stand of festival food and it was decided to calm things down a bit. The women of the neighborhood are kept busy – preparing and handling the hand over ceremonies, following the omikoshi around cooling it off with water and making sure not too many innocent bystanders are caught in the procession!
All in all great fun and if you are in Shizuoka (or in Tokyo and don’t mind the train travel) I can really recommend this festival for next year!