Aug 272011
 



 
With about 12,000 participants in about 180 dance groups and over a million of visitors, the Kōenji awa odori (高円寺阿波おどり) is one of the biggest summer festivals of Tokyo. On one weekend in August the dance groups parade around the area of the Kōenji JR station (of the Chūō line), performing the traditional fool’s dance before huge crowds of onlookers.

Unfortunately, unlike before this year the awa odori was not in the evening but in the afternoon, spoiling the chance for some low-light street photography. Still it was nice to watch the dancers and musicians in their traditional costumes chant and sing as they paraded through the streets.

A dance group performs on one the large shopping streets at the Kōenji Awa Odori.
A dance group performs on one the large shopping streets at the Kōenji Awa Odori.
The women do a special dance due to the restrictive nature of the traditional kimonos.
The women do a special dance due to the restrictive nature of the traditional kimonos.
A man doing the traditional 'silly dance' at the Kōenji Awa Odori.
A man doing the traditional 'silly dance' at the Kōenji Awa Odori.
The groups come from all over Japan, here some dancers from Ojiya.
The groups come from all over Japan, here some dancers from Ojiya.
As these drummers show, the Awa Odori dance festival is for all ages.
As these drummers show, the Awa Odori dance festival is for all ages.
A man carrying a big Japanese drum in front of his dance group.
A man carrying a big Japanese drum in front of his dance group.
 Posted by at 20:04
Aug 202010
 



 
The awa odori matsuri are very popular dance festivals in summertime Japan. These events are connected to the yearly obon festivities, so they a pretty much a family get-together with fun and games for the whole family. Large groups of costumed dancers march through the crowded streets dancing a deliberately silly dance, chanting songs and playing Japanese music instruments like shinobue or portable taiko drums.

The largest awa odori in Tokyo is in Kōenji in Suginami-ku, but many other neighborhoods have their own festival, because it is a popular summer pasttime and so much fun for everyone (and it’s good for business). So this weekend was a local awa odori in Shimo-Kitazawa of Setagaya-ku ward. Compared to the one in Kōenji it was a much smaller event with less dancers and less spectators. Then again, the area is also much smaller and has very narrow alleys so it was still pretty crowded. About one dozen different dance groups performed at various spots around the train station and gave me the opportunity for some low light photography.

A young girl in a traditional yukata dancing through the commercial neighborhood of Shimokita.
A young girl in a traditional yukata dancing through the commercial neighborhood of Shimokita.
Every dance and music group had their distinctively colored costume.
Every dance and music group had their distinctively colored costume.
The women dance in their summer kimonos.
The women dance in their summer kimonos.
A group of female dancers rests while the men perform a special dance.
A group of female dancers rests while the men perform a special dance.
Two girls of a dance group  sporting elaborate red costumes for the awa odori.
Two girls of a dance group sporting elaborate red costumes for the awa odori.
A young girl with her mother on her way home at the Shimokita crossing after the awa odori.
A young girl with her mother on her way home at the Shimokita crossing after the awa odori.
 Posted by at 23:28
Jul 042010
 



 
This Sunday I visited the Shōnan Hiratsuka Tanabata Festival in Hiratsuka, Kanagawa outside of Tokyo. Tanabata is a Japanese star festival that celebrates the stars Vega and Altair which are two lovers in Japanese folklore. The Tanabata in Hiratsuka is actually the largest of its kind in the Kantō region with about 4 million visitors from across Japan. It is a multi-day event with tons of food stalls, several stages, parades and lots and lots of decorations in the downtown area, which is closed for traffic while the festival lasts.

All said, it was a typical large-scale matsuri with entertainment for everyone. Parents (especially dads) spent times with their kids, young people met with friends or went on dates, children played with the decorations and had a fun day. For me it provided lots of photographic opportunities shooting pictures of Japanese dressed traditional summer clothing (like yukata).

Japanese girls in yukatas petting a bunny rabbit.
Japanese girls in yukatas petting a bunny rabbit.
Young girl in yukata under red streamers.
Young girl in yukata under red streamers.
Young boy holding a part of a mobile-like decoration.
Young boy holding a part of a mobile-like decoration.
The decorations were a big hit with the young children who liked playing with them.
The decorations were a big hit with the young children who liked playing with them.
Young girl wearing a yukata and a blow-up anime bear.
Young girl wearing a yukata and a blow-up anime bear.
There were tons of sweets and candy for kids.
There were tons of sweets and candy for kids.
Another Japanese child mesmerized by the hand-made decorations.
Another Japanese child mesmerized by the hand-made decorations.
A very intense performance of Japanese drummers on one of the stages.
A very intense performance of Japanese drummers on one of the stages.
The mobile of stars really captivated many young kids like the boy in a blue yukata.
The mobile of stars really captivated many young kids like the boy in a blue yukata.
A young girl on her father's shoulders checking out colorful decorations made from plastic bottles.
A young girl on her father's shoulders checking out colorful decorations made from plastic bottles.
A young girl and her plastic toys.
A young girl and her plastic toys.
A popular pasttime on festivals: Boy fishing for goldfishes.
A popular pasttime on festivals: Boy fishing for goldfishes.
 Posted by at 22:51
Jun 062010
 



 
This weekend was the Eco Life Fair 2010 at the Yoyogi park. I expected it to be a big event thanks to the many seminars, workshops, performances and demonstrations aimed at raising awareness of the impact modern lifestyle has on the environment. Thus I was pretty surprised that the festival area was poorly attended with virtually no crowding. While the Japanese love all things natural, environmental concerns seems to be less mainstream than in Western countries. So I guess for all the NGOs/NPOs providing information about volunteering and their projects to protect or improve the environment this much have been a rather disappointing event. However, it was nice to see that some people care, but it will probably take a lot more effort and many more eco fairs like this one to bring some serious change here.

For kids the Eco Life Fair offered many educational experiences. Here young children are taught about how the can recycling process works.
For kids the Eco Life Fair offered many educational experiences. Here young children are taught about how the can recycling process works.
This young girl is being photographed after playing some kind of game
This young girl is being photographed after playing some kind of game
The singer Aeka performing on the Eco Life 2010 Music Tree Stage.²
The singer Aeka performing on the Eco Life 2010 Music Tree Stage.²

 

¹ http://sky.ap.teacup.com/kenchans/
² http://www.aeka-web.com

 Posted by at 15:46
Jun 062010
 



 
Central Shibuya on the weekend is one of the most crowded neighborhoods in Tokyo. The sidewalks are so crammed with people that Japanese parents have resigned to carry their children instead of exposing them to the dangers of pedestrian traffic. And it’s really the fastest way for them to get from point A to point B!

 Posted by at 15:03
May 092010
 



 
Just south of Yoyogi Park is a large public stage where often festivals, concerts and other events happen at the weekend. This Saturday and Sunday there was a Jamaican music and culture festival and I went there and took a couple of photos of the crowd.

I was really surprised to see how many Japanese dads brought their young childrens to spend time with them. While a loud reggae concert is probably not the most children-friendly environment, it was nice, friendly overall atmosphere.

 Posted by at 16:30
May 042010
 



 
This Golden Week Tuesday I went to the Inokashira Park in Kichijōji. It was pretty crowded and lots of entertainment and photo opportunities were provided. The central features of the park are the large Inokashira Pond and a small temple dedicated to the love goddess Benzaiten. Paddle boats and row boats are offered for riding on the lake and were very popular. However, there is said to be a spell over the park by the vengeful Benzaiten, bringing love affairs to an untimely finish. To make this one a self-full-filling pro­phecy, appa­rently young people choose a boat ride as a place to tell their significant other that they want to break up. So be warned if your boy- or girl­friend wants you to take a ride on the pond…

On this day there was an art market with many vendors selling postcards, illustrations and other self-made artworks. There were also performers entertaining the crowds, playing puppets or telling stories. One mime was using simple accessories to perform famous pieces of art as some kind of DIY open-air museum. He also incorporated members of the audience for some pieces. Unfortunately, I did only see part of his performance, but I did grab a shot of him presenting the classical Madonna and Child theme with a surprised young man.

People riding row boats and swan-like paddle boats on the Inokashira Pond.
People riding row boats and swan-like paddle boats on the Inokashira Pond.
Children playing in the playground of the Ino­kashira Park. I have no idea why the young boy is sticking out his tongue, perhaps he is just eager to use the slide.
Children playing in the playground of the Ino­kashira Park. I have no idea why the young boy is sticking out his tongue, perhaps he is just eager to use the slide.
Japanese mime performing the "Madonna with child" theme in front of an amused audience.
Japanese mime performing the "Madonna with child" theme in front of an amused audience.
 Posted by at 17:25