Tokyobling's Blog

Young Men – Kurayami Festival Seinensodai

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on October 7, 2013

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!

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The Drums of Kurayami Matsuri

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on May 11, 2013

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.

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Kurayami Matsuri – Dashi

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on May 10, 2013

The second night of the huge Kurayami Matsuri in Fuchu City, Tokyo, had some very handsome dashi (山車) or festival wagons. These wagons are all fielded by neighborhood organizations and funded by private donations. I once met a group who had just gotten a new one built and they had spent over 30 million yen on it. This one is an unsualy brightly lit one, and it had a special trick up its sleeve, tilting! When a dashi meets another dashi it is customary to “do battle” to see which one will give right of way to the other, and I have never seen a dashi tilt like this before. Even the teenagers playing the traditional music in the front were surprised when it first happened. There are a total of 21 of these taking part in the festival, criss crossing the streets around the shrine for hours. This one belongs to Kotobukicho, a few square blocks of Fuchu City.

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Kurayami Matsuri – Festival Wagons

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on May 6, 2013

I don’t know what to call these dashi, the huge wagons that you’ll see at most bigger festivals, maybe there is a proper term in English? I saw these on the second day of the huge Kurayami matsuri at Fuchu City – the biggest city in Tokyo that you have never visited. Or at least that is how I would describe it to people. The dashi at this festival were staffed my mostly kids and school children. I have never seen so many young people doing the traditional and old fashioned hayashi dancing as in Fuchu City! The future for this festival looks very bright!

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