Tokyobling's Blog

Shiraishiren – Awaodori Team

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on September 1, 2011

Update 2011/09/05: Here’s Shiraishiren’s homepage!

A couple of days ago I introduced an Awaodori dance team of public workers and public officials. Today I’ll introduce a company team, Shiraishiren, 白石連. There’s quite a few corporate awaodori teams here in Japan and most companies see it as a mark of honor to perform in awaodori festivals. I have even heard of instances where companies who were involved in scandals voluntarily, as a sort of self punishment, forbade their own awaodori teams from performing in public for a set period of years. To say that Japanese companies take their place in society seriously is an understatement! When I first came to corporate Japan I was a typical ignorant outsider amazed at the number of business practices that didn’t make sense to me as a foreigner. Why isn’t this service outsourced? Why does the company operate a building services section just to take care of employee dormitories… etc. There were so many things that just didn’t make sense from a western business perspective. But gradually I learned that most Japanese companies consider that being an active and positive part of society is so much more important than turning a profit. They take a longer perspective to their business activities and think decades or sometimes even centuries in advance when it comes to making business decisions. This degree of community involvement carries with it great rewards, but in these days of a globalized corporate culture there’s also an increase in clashes between the western and the Japanese way of doing business, and when Japanese companies perform badly, as can be seen in the problems with the power utilities companies in Japan right now, people generally feel betrayed.

But it’s not all seriousness and hard work, many companies also take part in the lighter side of public life, like the Microsoft Awaodori team and in this case, Shiraishiren. Shiraishiren’s members are connected to the company Shiraishi Kensetsu, a construction company local to Suginami ward and Koenji town, where this festival takes place. While I don’t know anything about the company itself, their awaodori team is quite skilled, especially their rhythm section was highly synchronized. In some Awaodori festivals the dancers of a team is most often closer to the rhythm section of the previous team than the rhythm section of their own team, and it’s a mystery how they keep it all together. In the case of Shiraishiren, I suspect it boils down to practice. The rhythm section is led by a man with a strange looking instrument, a sort of metal drum held high and producing a very high, shrill sound that carries well over the din of other drums and the cheering crowds. This rhythm section leader is vital and in many teams there’s even a few of them spread out to help the entire team coordinate with each other. Most teams put their youngest members up first, which is another way that awaodori mirrors good Japanese business practice, let the youngest members shine while relying on the full backing of the older members. Really, is there any better way of running a business or a dance team? I don’t think so! As usual even the youngest kids take great pride in their dance and kids as young as 3-4 years old perform in the full three hours of the dance. Amazing.

Also, as a foreign friend of mine commented once while watching an awaodori performance: “It’s incredible how any woman becomes beautiful in these dresses and how any man becomes handsome when carrying a huge drum”. Awaodori magic? I think the Japanese are on to something.

17 Responses

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  1. pk1154 said, on September 1, 2011 at 11:57 am

    Well, you can bet I am smiling this morning!

    (And I have the gentleman with a mustache looks a wee bit like a Japanese version of my husband!)


    • tokyobling said, on September 1, 2011 at 11:54 pm

      Hey pk1154 you never told me you had such a handsome husband?! I am waiting for the reaction of your man as you show him this photo… (^-^)


      • pk1154 said, on September 2, 2011 at 12:53 pm

        “Distinguished” would be more accurate. He is a little more “hair challenged” than the man in the picture.

        I bought him an awesome Indiana Jones style fedora, to, um, keep the sun off. His co-worker’s kids call him Indiana G—–.


        • tokyobling said, on September 2, 2011 at 3:13 pm

          Unless his name is Samson or your work involves taming lions at a stage in Las Vegas a man should not need any more hair than what he has on his chest! And if he looks good in a fedora than he already looks better than most men (^-^)


      • pk1154 said, on September 3, 2011 at 12:05 pm

        Well, E is home for the holiday weekend, and agrees with me.

        Husband’s comment “I suppose…”


        • tokyobling said, on September 3, 2011 at 4:25 pm

          Haha… it’s 2 against one so your husband is doing the diplomatically correct thing by agreeing! (^-^)


  2. Emma Reese said, on September 1, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    I’m always impressed with your keen observation of the Japanese culture as well as your excellent photos that capture the essence. Your friend’s comment is so true! All the dancers look like star performers. There is a Microsoft team? Is there an Apple team too? (Our household is a strong advocate for Apple!)


    • tokyobling said, on September 2, 2011 at 12:00 am

      Thank you Emma! I don’t think I my observations are all that keen, I am constantly revising them. And Japan as a subject is really far too complex to describe in a blog like this. But I hope I am getting closer to the truth every day. (^-^)

      They are stars, at least to me. All of these performers, every single one of them! Yes, Microsoft has a huge awaodori team! But since there is a rather large turnover rate (this being a corporate team) their skill level varies quite sharply. I first saw them in 2009 at the Koenji festival, and there is a photo of a gorgeous Microsoft dancer here. Apple alas do not have a team. I guess the reason being that they have very few corporate employees in Japan, besides being a much smaller company. I also seriously doubt that Apple would support local festivals!


  3. Emma Reese said, on September 2, 2011 at 1:45 am

    Why, you love Awaodori, don’t you!! The photos from 2009 are superb too! I’m so impressed and also surprised to see the radiant, genuine smiles on the faces of the dancers (and they are Japanese!) Their costumes are indeed dashing (but I feel sorry for the women in yukata and hats in the heat of August!) To think this festival has been going on so close to where I was and yet I’ve never known about it until I read your blog.

    Apple should start their team too with a big apple on their costume!


    • tokyobling said, on September 2, 2011 at 1:52 am

      Haha… yes, people say I am Awaodori crazy! (^-^) I have realized that in the typical Japanese summer heat it doesn’t really matter what you wear, even nudists complain of the heat here! (^-^;) I agree, Apple should start a team!

      And thank you for the kind words about my photos! I think I have gotten much better since then though. My 2009 photos were not so concentrated and it takes a bit of practice to get good shots of festivals! (^-^;)


  4. Timi said, on September 3, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    Kids! And the last pictures guy haha, love them!
    The girl on the 11th pic, is she only half japanese? Or is it only me who thinks her face looks Europian?


    • tokyobling said, on September 3, 2011 at 5:15 pm

      Yes, the guy with the drum looks so pleased! (^-^) I think she is fully Japanese, just western style make up and hair style perhaps. Super cute though! (^-^;)


  5. tohru said, on September 4, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    Nice to meet you.
    Thank you for publishing & taking picture shiraishi-ren.
    My name is “tohru” takes charge of a large-drum in shiraishi-ren.

    Anyway, it was able to enjoy performing and it was good.
    We are very pleasure read this blog shiraishi-ren all members!

    Woman’s member of shiraishi-ren.
    very pleased with the thing that it had been called by you after koenji-awaodori festival.

    At that time you said
    “shiraishi-ren’s large-drum was called a ROCK”
    I have been deeply very moved!
    Because I am a drummer of the rock band!

    Please come to see by all means next year Kouenji-awaodori festival!

    Next we are perform to the Hatsudai-Awaodori on September 22.

    For your information

    Names of musical instruments for awa-odori

    Musical instruments that metallic is round > “Kane”
    Large-drums > “O-daiko”
    Small-drums > “Shime-daiko”
    Wooden whistle > “Shino-bue”

    It looks forward to meeting again!

    Shiraishi-ren Website


    • tokyobling said, on September 5, 2011 at 1:26 am

      Thank you for the kind comment Tohru様! You can be proud over Shiraishiren’s drum section, it is really great. Or as we say in English: “tight”!

      Also, please use any or all of my photos for Shiraishiren’s publicity, website or personal use. I am very happy to see Shiraishiren perform so kindly. Your hard work and great music makes Tokyo a better place!

      I am very much looking forward to your next performance!


  6. tohru said, on September 5, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    Thank you very much!
    I’m very pleased when I can use your wonderful photo!

    When I use your photo,
    We like to introduce this blog.

    This blog has been introduced to Japan from the perspective of their own,
    And there are about 900th published post & your wonderful photo.
    Please keep writing more and more the future!

    It also comes into play!

    See you.


    • tohru said, on September 5, 2011 at 4:50 pm

      also,We will be able to practice more and better performance!!


    • tokyobling said, on September 6, 2011 at 2:35 am

      Thank you for your kind comments Tohru様! Please use these photos as much as you like. I will keep writing and keep posting and I am looking forward to your next performance very much!


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