Autumn is here and it is getting chilly. Too chilly to go outside in only a shirt, at least in the evenings. It’s certainly a relief to be able to go outside without being drenched in sweat but I already miss summer and the fantastic summer festivals, so in a moment of nostalgia I look over some of the festival photos that I didn’t think about publishing, taken earlier this year. One of the most low-key but interesting festivals must be the Kagurazaka Matsuri in Shinjku Ward’s most hippest district. It’s rapidly turning into a tourist attraction, like a mini-Kyoto in Tokyo. In fact, Kagurazaka is the only place in Tokyo where I have seen real geisha in the streets, not once but twice. The Kagurazaka festival is held in July each year, with food and drink stalls set up along the long sloping road and even some live performances by famous singers, I saw Hitomi Matsunaga perform at a temple on the side of Kagurazaka street, and enka really adds to the mood of any festival! The beautiful Ms. Matsunaga sings enka that is a bit sweeter and not quite so nostalgic as others, making her music a bit more fitting for these festive occasions. If you’ve never heard of enka music, you can see one video of her performing here. Be warned though – enka is easily the variety of Japanese pop music that foreigners (and Japanese too for that matter) find it hardest to enjoy.
It was great to see all kinds of people come out for the festival, from people in suits straight from the office to kids, young couples and even some very well dressed beautiful young ladies. In fact, most of the shops had a discount for anyone dressed in traditional Japanese clothes, so there was a large percentage of both men and women dressed really nicely! Even in these festivals though there are a lot of people working, taxi drivers ferrying guests, restaurant staff manning the booths, neighborhood associations organizing games and events, the temple priests were busier than ever, sound engineers to make sure the beautiful music is carried across the entire festival area, delivery men making sure the restaurants are stocked and security guards working extra to make sure traffic runs smoothly and that no one gets injured. And even though there were a lot of drinking, nobody got too drunk or aggressive. Just another perfect festival in a civilized society. I love Japan!
Have you ever heard of Enka music? The slow, sentimental, old fashioned ballads that the older Japanese can’t get enough of? Here’s a speciality record store in Tokyo’s Asakusa district selling CDs, books, posters and VHS video of the latest and brightest stars on the Enka heaven. Recently there has been as close to a generation shift as you can get in this genre as many young artists have started out on their careers. The young artist who made the biggest splash in the media was Jero (or Jerome Charles White, Jr), the first black Enka singer! Unfortunately I couldn’t find his poster in this store. The enka stores are the last CD shops to have decent sales figures I think, as more and more big name record stores are going out of business, it seems that many of the typical enka generation seems to treasure their older media still. This store is called Miyada, if you ever need to ask for directions. Here’s one of my favorite Enka songs, the super famous classic Akogare no Hawaii Koro from the 1950 movie with the same name with the legendary Haruo Oka (岡晴夫).