Awaodori festival season has started and one of the bigger festivals of the summer is the Shimokitzawa Awaodori festival. It’s a two day event, on the 9th and 10th of August, from 18:30 to 20:30. The narrow streets of Shimokitazawa makes for a very intimate and friendly festival where the audience is very close to the dancers. The drummers especially can be dangerous so it is usually best to stand back a little.
I saw the Yattokoren at last year’s festival, one of the local Shimokitazawa teams. The shotengai, or shopping street, where the festival takes place is called Ichibangai which has been place of commerce since the 1920s and really grew big after the second world war as most if survived the bombings and many merchants from other areas flocked to Shimokitazawa. The Awaodori festival was started in 1966 and this year’s festival will be the 49th.
Shimokitazawa is a great place to hang out and there’s plenty of shops and unique little restaurants and alleys to explore, so if you have time in August this year, make sure to visit!
The festival has an English homepage here.
At the Kurayami Festival in Tokyo’s western Fuchu City earlier this year I saw this performance by the Satiama based Tadenomikai (蓼の実会), a famous local group of hayashi dancers and musicians. They performed their solemn dance which I wish I knew more about and one exceedingly cute little boy in the audience did his best to keep up with their movements, but only as long as they didn’t see him. I couldn’t tell if the crowd cheered more for the little boy than they did for the performers, but everyone seemed thrilled.
Japanese take pride in doing things as a group. From an early age children are taught to work together and to value belonging to a group and to society. To westerners who are raised to be more individualistic this way of working together often looks strange. Even sports practice emphasize team action where westerners usually wouldn’t consider teams, even tennis is a group activity in Japanese schools! One place even the casual tourist can see this way of group work in action is during the festivals where neighborhood associations of school kids (少年) and even youth (青年) take part in formal and informal groups. Most activities involve shouting! I took these photos of the seinensodai (青年総代), a youth organization helping out at the Kurayami Matsuri in Tokyo’s Fuchu City. Groups of them would gather around town and move together towards the main shrine of the festival while encouraging themselves, each other and other people attending the festival to put more energy into it with shouts and jumping. And, I suspect part of is to warm up for the heavy work of carrying the shrines around town!
I don’t know about your country, but just sometimes even amateur folk dance troupes get the rock star treatment! It happened at the end of the Awaodori festival in Tokyo’s Shimokitzawa district last weekend, the Shinoburen from Koenji performed their set piece on barely enough ground to walk on, let alone dance. There were just so many people crowded around to catch the set. People cheered, clapped and shouted encouragement to the dancers as they braved near record levels of heat to entertain us. It must be great to be the center of all that love and energy! If you have ever seen an Awaodori street performance like this you will know what I mean when I say that I was enjoying the buzz from an Awodori high! Granted, Shinoburen is one of the bigger and more famous teams in Tokyo, but I dare say they have some of the most dedicated fans! I really can’t wait for the huge Koenji festival in Tokyo at the end of this month. Just a few more days to go…!