Last year was the 400th anniversary of the completion of the castle of Matsue City in Shimane prefecture and the whole prefecture put on a huge effort to attract tourism and visitors. Despite all the things going on in north eastern Japan at the time they really did great and I took full advantage of being the complete tourist for my two day trip to the city. This being Japan, Matsue did the rather clever thing of putting up an idol group just to promote the city during 2011, the Matsue Maihimetai, which roughly translates as the Dancing Castle Maidens of Maihime (or at least that’s what I would call them if someone had asked me to give them an English stage name!). At their official site you can download one of their songs and learn the lyrics to some others. Here’s a rather simple video online showing their performance in front of the gorgeous Matsue Castle, and also singing about it.
No matter how famous they became or how much they helped to put Matsue on the tourist map during their short time on stage, I think that it’s a great use of a city’s marketing budget, especially as they sent them out on a summer tour across the country. Local talent promoting their own city and showing that it’s not only Tokyo that can do idol groups!
The photos I took of their very sunny midday performance at a stage below Matsue Castle aren’t very good at all, since I had to use my longest lens for the day, a 70-300mm Sigma that is absolutely not built for these situations. But one uses what one’s got, right?
At the Furusato Matsuri I managed to catch one of the few Japanese pop bands (J-pop) I know and actually listen to whenever I hear them, BillyKen (or ビリケン in Japanese). I first came across them when I was indulging in a hobby of mine, collecting cover songs of tunes I like a lot! The tune I was looking for was that absolutely timeless classic of Japanese music, Nagoriyuki from 1975 (here in the original by Kaguyahime my favorite Japanese band of all time, or this more famous version by Iruka, here), one of the only songs that make me cry every time I hear it. One of the dozens of covers I found was a modern, hip-hop styled cover by BillyKen. I really liked their version with great singing, nice rap interpretation and overall fun style. So over the years I’ve always made a point of listening to them when they turn up on radio or TV.
BillyKen is a duo currently signed to a major record label and they did great work for children affected by the earthquake and tsunami last year, one result of which was the video for one of their songs that I also recommend, aruite yukou (あるいてゆこう). Anyway, here’s a few shots I took, it is always great fun to shoot at concerts where the organizers are smart enough to be cool about cameras!