I hope you aren’t getting tired of my photos from the Kawagoe Matsuri, or the Kawagoe Festival late summer last year! I keep going back to the photos I took and finding interesting faces and situations from hundreds of photos I took during those to days and evenings. The festival itself centers around a few main streets and alleys, but it really sprawls out over a very large area, covering over three stations and everything in between. Even on non crowded days it can take 30 minutes to walk from one end of the festival area to the other, and during the festival itself it can take hours! There’s of course the huge mobile festival wagons battling it out whenever they meet up, but there’s also a number of stages put up around the area where performances take place almost around the clock, traditional dance and music. It really is one of my favorite festivals!
More photos from last year’s Kawagoe festival I’m afraid! I took got so many good shots of the great people of Kawagoe city in Saitama prefecture just north of Tokyo, I just have to keep posting them. The best thing about these groups of people pulling the festival floats is that you can just stand still and keep finding great moments to capture in your camera finder. My favorite this time is of the two boys shouting! When I first came to Japan I was really surprised at how a lot of young people were encouraged to shout, both in martial arts but also in ordinary sports and activities, even old ladies rarely lift something or get up from a chair without saying something. A friend of mine who is a teacher told me that the reason Japanese focus so much on this shouting is because they are naturally timid, and there are few opportunities to make themselves heard in the course of normal life so in order to build a stronger character, children are accustomed from a young age to let out a blood curdling shout even when playing table tennis or throwing a basket ball! It’s a nice tradition and it actually works! The best thing is to hear a couple of hundred neighbors shout together when pulling one of these huge festival wagons though!
It’s March, the worst month in the year for Japanese office workers as the end of the fiscal year is creeping nearer and the pace picks up for projects to be closed and plans filed for the coming fiscal year that starts in April. For me it’s that, and the relative dearth of festivals! So to combat the shortage of festivals I looked over some photos from last year’s fantastic Kawagoe festival (which honestly might rank as one of the top three festivals in the Kanto area). I’ve covered this festival many times before but there’s just so many amazing photo opportunities at this massive event! The man in the first picture carries a lantern with the word Keigo painted on it, which mean bodyguard in modern Japanese but in the old days it was more like what we’d call a watchman. Men of the Keigo walk beside the huge, 2-3 ton heavy festival wagons to make sure there’s no accidents on the very narrow streets crowded with hundreds of thousands of people. To turn on of these behemoths is a job for dozens of people using muscle power and huge crowbars, nudging it a few millimeter every few yeards to keep it on course (see the second image). These wagons are also very tall, sometimes three or even four stories tall, with retractable upper floors or statues on top. No matter what you do, the wagons are going to run into low hanging wires and as in the third image, street lights that are too sturdy to push away. I watched as this wagon was stuck for more than 10 minutes trying to nudge it away from the street lights. The wagons represent different neighborhoods and groups of citizens, and these people take turns in huge processions to pull the rope that moves the wagons forward. Everyone from the area can join, kids, old people, parents, students, it’s really wonderful to see this cross section of a traditional Japanese neighborhood working together for the sake of these beautiful old traditions.
There’s been a lot of celebrations on this blog recently and before you think I might be getting full of myself let me just tell you that you might be right. Anyway, I just wanted to take this opportunity to mark my 1000th post at Tokyobling with a dedication to the people of Japan for being such fantastic hosts and all generous human beings. You might have figured it out already, but this blog is not really about stuff or places or buildings or puns: it’s about people! So here is four photos from one of my favorite Japanese festivals, the Kawagoe Matsuri earlier this autumn.
The first is two friends with the sweetest smiles. When they passed me I didn’t dare take their picture, but the smaller man tapped his friend on the shoulder and they both stopped to let me take a photo of his fantastic hairdo, a very genuine, Edo period merchant hairstyle, and the first I ever see on the streets of Japan. In Japan even the street toughs have the most wonderful smiles!
The second and third shot is also a couple – an old man performing a classical mime dance to the sounds of the flute and the drum, and a small boy who just might have seen one performance too many. Well, perhaps there really is no connection between the two but they were just too good photo opportunities to miss.
The fourth shot is of a princess. Not a blue blood princess but a princess to her father all the same. I hope both of these kids in the these photos grow up to be happy in the future Japan.