A couple of weeks ago we celebrated the Tanabata Festival here in Japan, which means that many shopping streets and town councils put on an event of some kind to entertain and attract customers and people. Although I did not have time to visit any this year, a couple of years ago I saw a great Taiko performance, big drums and lots of them, at the Kappabashi Tanabata festival. The group performing was roughly 50-50 men and women but where I happened to be crouching down there were only women in front of me! Their energy and performance was absolutely fantastic. Watching taiko from up close is a very physical experience as you can feel the drums as much as you can hear it. If you have the chance to see taiko this summer please do, it is one of these amazing cultural things that Japanese do so well.
This group is called Tawoo and seems to be a cultural organization with a more “tribal” look and feel than the traditional taiko groups of Japan. They have offices from Hokkaido to Okinawa and seem pretty well organized. Don’t miss them if you got the chance! They actually perform in the Karasuyama Fureaimatsuri today, if you happen to be close.
There’s so many festivals, events and performances going on today here in Tokyo that you are agonizing over which one to go to right now! I won’t list them all, but one event that is worth attending if you haven’t been to many festivals this year, is the Nezu Shrine festival, the main event being today. I went there yesterday and saw this great performance by the Nezu Gongendaiko (根津権現太鼓) taiko drum group. They have two performances today and later on at night they also perform a much more limited set at the nearby bonodori street party. The performance I saw was an all woman drummer event and they were great. Groups with male drummers tend to focus more on raw power whereas the ladies are more into group interaction, one drummer will pick up the rhythm of another, and showy drum movements, switching drums or hitting more than one drum at a time. It’s great fun to watch and you really must be there because I have yet to hear a recording or see a video that comes even close to capturing what it really sounds like.
Some more photos from the Akita Kanto Festival team visiting the big Furusato Matsuri at Tokyo Dome last year. Accompanying the team was of course musicians, including taiko drummers. These are photos from the parade as the poles and lanterns are carried around the arena. At the Furusato Matsuri (meaning the “home town festival”) famous festivals from all over Japan take turn entertaining the audience, when I was at the festival it was this team from Akita prefecture, and also Awaodori dancers from Tokushima prefecture and dancers from Okinawa in the south. It is held every year in January, over several days in the huge Tokyo Dome arena. Recommended!