Last night was the start of the annual Awaodori Matsuri at Shibuya ward’s Hatsudai, just next to Shinjuku. The festival started just as the rain started falling but after a few minutes the rains subsided and the festival could start of for real. Hatsudai is home to a few awaodori dance teams, the most famous being the Hatsudairen. Since yesterday was an ordinary weekday here in Tokyo most of the teams were smaller than usual but today is a public holiday and the teams should be back in full strength! This is the last of the major Tokyo awaodori festivals so here is your chance!
The festival is easily reached by the Toei Shinjuku Line, south exit.
Often finding the best photo opportunities in Japan is just a matter of luck. And a keen sense of hearing. I had been up to see the festival at the Yoyogihachiman Shrine near Tokyo’s Shinjuku district, and was on my way towards Hatsudai when I picked up the sound of a very familiar flute and turned back. It was one of my favorite Awaodori teams, the Hatsudairen (初台連), preparing to receive their blessing at the shrine before the evening’s Awaodori festival in Hatsudai. They went in with guns blazing, that is, in full gear and with flutes and drums, dancing all their way up the very steep and tall stone stairs that lead up to the shrine on the hill. I have never seen an Awaodori troupe perform like this before so it was great fun for me to watch, maybe less fun to battle those stairs while dancing! The route led them towards the main shrine where they gathered up to receive a private blessing by the young priest of the shrine, waving the ceremonial white papers over the group. The men all took their headgear off, of course, but the onnaodori, the women dancers with the folded straw hats got to keep their on. It’s not an easy headgear to take off, as far as I have seen.
I love these moments when I just luck out and happen onto something cool and interesting.
Last weekend I visited the awaodori festival held every year in Hatsudai, not very far from the heart of Tokyo, near both Shinjuku and Shibuya. The Hatsudai festival is always a little melancholic for us awaodori lovers in Tokyo as it is the last of the bigger awaodori festivals in the city (the last big awaodori festival of the region is in Kawasaki next weekend). The festival in Hatsudai is still small and cozy enough to have small town feel to it and the participating teams are relatively small. One of the teams taking part this year was the Ootoriren, a very small team with a lot of energy! I saw several members from the Sancharen taking part as well so I think they had a lot of backup this time!
This year’s festival was the 44th, and you can tell Hatsudai has a long tradition with this form of dance, as they have no less than six local teams of their own! I am already looking forward to the 45th festival next year!
I haven’t had any Awaodori related posts for a long time, so here’s some of the photos I took on the fun loving Otoriren at the Hatsudai Awaodori Festival a couple of months ago. I don’t know anything about this particular group because even with my considerable skills in Google-fu I can’t find their homepage. Maybe some reader might find it? The Hatsudai Awaodori Festival is one the more well know Awaodori festivals in central Tokyo and is especially family friendly due to the broad street where the festival takes place. Arrive early, put out a plastic sheet, set up a pic-nic and await the start of the fun! You don’t even have to bring food and drinks, as the local merchants set up over a hundred different food stands with excellent food and drinks for all ages! The Awaodori festival season is over for this year, and it makes me a little nostalgic to look at these pictures. Still, it’s only about half a year until the Awaodori festival seasons starts again!