The traditional dancing of Japan is not only performed by geisha, but also by ordinary people, like this girl performign at the Yasukuni shrine in central Tokyo this last summer. With roots in the 17th century, traditional Japanese dancing is now quite rare, and fantastically expensive as a hobby among ordinary people. This little girl was excellent in her pantomime and slow, studied movements. If you are interested in classical Japanese arts and culture it is often cheaper and easier to keep an eye out for the rare free performances like this! Most of these dances are performed alone, but sometimes there is an assistant clad in black staying silent and motionless in the background, only moving to hand props or arrange the clothing of the dancer.
At the recent Mitama Matsuri in Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine I saw this beautiful performer of Nihon Buyou, or traditional Japanese dance. These days the vast majority of dancers in this traditional genre are much older than this lady and it is good to see that at least some in the younger generation that keeps the tradition alive! During the four day festival dozens of dancers performed at this stage, free of charge and plenty of seating. I’m surprised not more people came to watch, but I was also happy to be able to focus on getting good photos without the crowds for once.
In March, the traditional month for all university graduations in Japan, I happened to be in Tokyo’s Kudanshita district, just near the Budokan in the Kitamaru Koen. This was the big day for all students at Nihon Daigaku, the biggest university in Tokyo and in Japan with almost 70 000 undergraduate students. The graduation ceremony had ended and hundreds of the most wonderfully dressed young women paraded past me, of course I had to snap a few photos! The traditional graduation dress of women in Japan consist of the kimono over which a hakama is worn, the trouser like skirt also often worn by martial artists. It’s a gorgeous combination! To this form of kimono, it is common to wear boots of the 1920′s era rather than the more traditional sandals.
Almost every time I visit the grand shrine in Kamakura, the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu there seems to be a wedding going on. It’s a great opportunity to see the finest kimono and listen to the thousand of years old ceremonial music being played live. I caught this ceremony a couple of days ago, the bride looked really nervous as she was taking instructions from the priest assistants. Since it’s currently Golden Week here in Japan the shrine was packed with tourists and visitors enjoying the great weather and that in itself should be enough to make any bride nervous! The groom looked much more relaxed. It’s not all that common to see these traditional ceremonies performed out in the open, usually they are confined to the inner sanctum of the shrines. At most you can see the traditional wedding parade if you visit places like the Meiji Jingu in central Tokyo, but this shrine in Kamakura (Kanagawa prefecture) is one of the best for seeing traditional weddings!