Spring is here and this year’s Kawagoe Harumatsuri (the 25th Kawagoe City Spring Festival) went off in perfect sunshine. The festival is over a month long and runs until the 6th of May with events happening most weekends and a few weekdays in Saitama prefecture’s Kawagoe City. As usual the opening ceremony was spectacular with the usual taiko drumming, folk dancing, musketry, marching bands, brass bands, koinobori painting for the kids and ladder acrobatics by the local firefighters. In fact, the weather was so good photography was quite difficult in the harsh spring sunlight! Last year’s opening day was grey and rainy, perfect for taking photos but not for enjoying a day out. I’ll post more photos from this fun spring event!
If you are around in Tokyo or Saitama at the end of the month I recommend you visit the grand Kawagoe Haru Matsuri, the spring festival held in old Kawagoe town every year (well, for the last 24 years anyway). There’s a parade of musketmen firing real muskets (absolutely the loudest noise you will ever hear), ladder acrobatics, and traditional dances and performances by local kids, like these two young taiko drummers performing in the rain at last year’s festival. They were a huge hit with the older ladies performing a traditional dance around them! It’s great to see that the younger generations are picking up on the old traditions. These photos are from last year’s spring festival but I am sure this one will be similar (there isn’t much official information online yet, but the opening event will be held on the 29th of March and then there will be something every weekend until the beginning of May).
I am extremely fortunate in that I am born a walker. I love walking. Can’t get enough of it. And few cities are so perfectly walkable as Tokyo. I often get off trains a couple off stations early just to get the pleasure of walking the final part of my journey, and I seldom use connecting trains, preferring to get somewhat in the right direction and then walk the last bit. Yesterday I lucked out again as I walking to a place two stations Shinagawa, and halfway there I lucked out and happened to find myself at a street performance by one of Tokyo’s most famous taiko drumming groups, the Daigen group, who has won several top awards both nationally and internationally. Even their junior members looked tougher than most grown up men in the audience! Their manager kept asking us to get closer but from where I was at front every beat of the drums brought sharp pain to my ears so I can understand the audience for keeping their distance!
One of the most spectacular aspects of the Kurayami Matsuri in Tokyo’s western Fuchu City is the huge drum. There are six of these massive beasts that can carry four men and are drawn by up to two dozen others. Instead of normal drumsticks they use two thick and stubby baseball bats, one in each hand. There is a certain rhythm, three quick strokes, followed by a slow draw during which the overseer standing on top of the drum lowers his paper lantern while chanting a single drawn out word. Two drummer per drum, and six to a festival, spread out over a square kilometer, creates a sound almost like a scene from a war movie. It’s an almost hypnotic thing to see! In the old days only the strongest men were allowed but these days women and kids take part in the drumming as well and I caught one young man eagerly awaiting his turn at the drum. The most enthusiastic drummers who manage to combine massive strength with a decorum fitting the occasion usually draws a lot of applause and the appreciative nods from the more experienced old men in the crowd. One day I wouldn’t mind having a go at them.