Winter is hell for us Awaodori dance lovers, if it was not for the only more or less annual winter Awaodori performance in Tokyo’s Dome City I don’t know what I’d do! Every year, as part of the grand Furusato Matsuri event being held inside Tokyo Dome there are a few big Awaodori performances outside, given to the general public visiting the LaQua fairground just next to Tokyo Dome near the Korakuen subway station. This year again it was a combined effort of dancers from the mega stars Suikoren and the Hyottokoren with added assistance from the Minami-Koshigaya Tensuiren. The drum team was even more gifted with guest appearances from quite a few different Tokushima prefecture teams.
The performance is held in the freezing winter evening under the LaQua Mandala Globe, which is made by a Toksushima company and is one millionth the size of the Earth, roughly twelve times ten meters. It is part of the LaQua/Tokyo Dome City winter illuminations program to attract visitors to this fair ground even in the colder month. This year it is set to run until February 16th.
Tokyo Dome City where this event is held is one of Tokyo’s permanent fair grounds, and full of attractions aimed at kids and young couples. Maybe not the first place to visit for the average casual tourist but a given day trip for any family or people who stay a little longer in Tokyo. The other choices for fair grounds would be (to mention a couple) the Hanayasiki at Asakusa or Odaiba.
Every year in August up in Japan’s northern Akita prefecture there is the traditional Aktia Kanto Festival, a harvest festival that uses long bamboo poles with painted lanterns in amazing balancing acts! The poles and lanterns (that are lit at night) weigh about 50kg each, but of course there are even heavier, I have heard of some that weigh about 80kg! These are held in one arm, or balanced on any part of your body that you can think of, and carried in parades. As part of their tourism drive, a team of festival performers travel to Tokyo a few times a year, so although I have never been to Akita I have seen performances of this festival a few times. I took these photos at last year’s Furusato Matsuri at Tokyo Dome, a huge baseball stadium between Korakuen and Suidobashi stations. If you have free time in Tokyo today I recommend visiting the event where you can sample food and drinks and festivals from all over Japan in one handy spot! The daytime tickets are probably nearly sold out now, but the night time tickets are even cheaper, so even on a budget it shouldn’t be too expensive. I’ll post more photos of this amazing festival later on, but please excuse the poor photos, I was using a 50-500mm “Bigma” Sigma, the original widow maker and back breaker tele zoom lens. Absolutely not suitable for indoor photography!
In connection with the annual Furusato matsuri at Tokyo’s great arena, the Tokyo Dome the neighboring amusement park put on an Awaodori show with two of great Tokyo teams; the Hyottokoren and the Suikoren as well as a famous team from out of town, the Aifubukiren. It the second time I see Awaodori in the winter and it always feels strange to see this dance in the biting cold. Still, despite the cold and the rapidly falling daylight, the dancers did great! The musicians were a little bit separated from the dancers so I missed out on the deafening drums and successions of flutes and shamisen! I think the Furusato matsuri is still on tomorrow, so go have a look! It’s a great chance to learn more about food from around the country without leaving Tokyo!
In January I visited the furusato matsuri at Tokyo Dome and saw, among many other things, these Okinawan drummers perform! I have been twice to Okinawa but never seen anything cultural so this was a treat. Scores of drummers and dancers showing us their traditional high stepping dance complete with a very un-japanese drum rhythm, slow and methodical, with high pitched singing voices and the almost drone like string instruments they use. Almost hypnotic. Any man looks better with a drum but I guess these handsome men wouldn’t look bad even without their drums.
I’m posting quite a few photos to give you a sense of how the movement looks like, not sure if it works! The performance took place on a massive stage and I was nowhere near the dancers, luckily though I had my Bigma with me (a Sigma 50-500mm 3.5-6.3 super tele), also known as “Dr. Backercracker” and the “Widow Maker”. A huge lens I bought second hand that I almost never have the energy to carry around with me. My back is thankful to me for not using it too often. It was dark and with a dark lens like this I had to crank the ISO up to almost unacceptable levels to bring the shutter speeds up and above 1/500 (for handheld photography). Enjoy!