A couple of weekend I visited Omiya City in Saitama Prefecture just north of Tokyo for their annual summer festival. It is a newish, huge, city festival (so no properly traditional or religious significance to it as yet), where they show a little bit of everything the city has to offer in terms of culture. One of these being a proper samba carnival! Having never seen a samba carnival in Brazil I can not vouch for how authentic it feels, but it sure looks spectacular! The outlandish costumes, the music (and not least the ladies) are huge attractions for locals and the streets were lined ten deep along the parade route.
August has been very very hot in Japan, with few days under 35 degrees celsius and temperatures hitting 40 even in Saitama Prefecture on several days. To dance for a two hours more or less nonstop in this heat is a feat in itself. The men and women did a great job.
Brazilians make up one of Japan biggest ethnic minorities, and there are currently about 300 000 of them in Japan, mostly concentrated in the factory towns on the southern coast of Japan, stretching between Shizuoka Prefecture and Osaka. Most famously in the city of Hamamatsu where most street signs used to be bilingual in Japanese and Portuguese.
One of my favorite things to do on any festival is to check out the local Hayashi teams, and especially the dancers in masks and costumes. Some teams are made up of locals, others are professional teams that service many festivals and events in a prefecture or city or neighborhood. Each dancer is associated with a certain costume and mask and the dance and movements are unique to each “character”. I have a few favorite characters but I won’t say which! One of the hayashi dancers I saw at the grand Kawagoe Matsuri had her little boy up on stage who enjoyed doing his best to keep the audience and musicians in high spirit. Don’t worry, lots of people were keeping an eye on him and every time he got too close to going over the rail they would grab him by his pants and pull him back. Very funny to watch!
Every time I visit a festival in Kawagoe City just north of Tokyo I make a point of seeing the ladder acrobatics performance by the local firefighters, one of my favorite teams. This year’s Kawagoe Matsuri had perfect weather for ladder acrobatics, not windy at all and no rain at all. Thanks to that they put on a great show with even the most difficult of positions. The stark difference between the firefighters lit by other people’s camera flashes and ambient street lighting contrasted with the pictch black night sky was pretty effective!
At the famous Kawagoe Matsuri that takes place in the middle of October each year in the city of Kawagoe just north of Tokyo, you can see dozens of different hayashi music teams. These teams man the stationary festival platforms around the city as well as ride along on the large dashi that are pulled around the city at night. Each team consists of a few drummers, one or two flutists and a dancer portraying one or more of several traditional mythological creatures or characters from folklore. The dancer that got the most attention at this year’s festival was probably the man who dressed like a white dog with a wild white mane. He was excellent at mimicking the movements of a dog and his costume looked fantastic. The only thing that could distract me were the four local children having their portrait taken with the festival lanterns. Very cute! As usual – click the photos to see them bigger and in better quality.