Last weekend I was rushing to be in time for the Kitamachi Awaodori festival in Tokyo’s northern Nerima Ward and managed to get a good spot right in front of the famous Aoishinren (葵新連) awaodori dance team. It must have been some sort of delay because they teams all spent quite a lot of time waiting to start the show and since I had nothing better to do I tried to take some (for me anyway) unusual snapshots of awaodori dancers warming up. I don’t know if they were nervous or not, I know I would have been, but this team at least is very experienced so maybe they were very cool about it. I tend to remember the performances by this team due to the many unusually talented younger dancers.
We’re right in the middle of the peak of the Awaodori season and it seems like there’s a handful of different festivals going on every weekend in the greater Tokyo area. It’s really tough on the awaodori maniacs, like me. I don’t know what it is, but the sound of the flute and the drums just trigger something inside me that makes me smile! Is Awaodori addictive? I think it is, at least for me!
Most, but not all Awaodori festivals (yes, I know, it’s my favorite subject again!), end in wonderful set performance, and usually that set performance ends with the audience being invited to join in the dance. At the Kyodo matsuri the other week I saw one of my favorite awaodori teams, the Tokyo Ebisuren, and their final set performance. Two little girls next to me were overjoyed to be invited in the dance and at the end they were actually jumping around with joy! Having many nieces I know how important it is for most little girls to play with older girl, especially if they are as beautiful and fun as the girls in the Tokyo Ebisuren!
It’s been far too long I had the chance to see one of my all time favorite awaodori teams – the wonderfully weird and wonky, avant-garde almost, Takarabune, native of Tokyo. I went to see the festival at Kyodo in Tokyo’s Setagaya ward and didn’t know that they would be performing but they were as fantastic as ever. I have no idea how they manage to perform with the level of intensity they do, surely they have never heard of pacing themselves or preserving their energy, at any point in the parade they seem to be 30 seconds from the ending. Their style is about as far as it is possible to get in from true awaodori, they have more in common with a burlesque dance show on stage or even miming! If you’re in Tokyo on the 28th this month you can see them live at the Kitamachi Awaodori at Nerima Station.
They move so fast I totally missed to change my camera settings and these were the best photos I managed to get of them, there’s always a fine line between getting caught in the show and actually trying to get good photos. This time I must have enjoyed them too much. Sorry for all the blur! You might remember them from another blog post a couple of years back with much better (sharper) photos.
No, the Awaodori season is not over yet! Please let me know in the comments if you think I should just go ahead and rename this blog to “Awaodori and other Stuff about Japan” (^-^). This season introduced me to a new team that quickly entered the second spot in my list of favorite Awaodori teams, Takarafune! This team has a fantastic spirit of showmanship and ingenuity, and they seem to have recruited members from all sorts of art and dance backgrounds. While losing points on the music and pretty ladies in pointy hats side, they win a lot of points on their dancers and ability to win over the crowds. At the end of their end of parade show in Shimokitazawa last month, they managed to get the whole street of ordinary people, from kids to old couples, up and dancing! It was absolutely unreal and unlike anything I have ever seen, even in countries where dancing in the street is considered the normal thing to do. If you have ever been to Tokyo, you’ll know that merrymaking in public is almost unheard of. So this group is. Very. Impressive.
I shot these with my trusty old 50mm lens, which at f1.4 lends itself well to badly lit, very fast moving street scenes, but after seeing the top image on their official website I’ve kind of started thinking that I need to start working more with slow flashes. Next time around, I’ll bring out my Orbis, my flash set on slow synch and a strong assistant to help my lug all the gear around. Ｄon’t you think the guy in make up, the ballet dancing man and girls line dancing are just the most beautiful creatures? I love them. I hope they grow even bigger and louder from now on! The crowd certainly loved them too.