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 162010
 



 
The Laforet Grand Bazar is one of the summer highlights for shoppers in Harajuku. For five days the trendsetting fashion department store/mall Laforet Harajuku has pretty much a fire sale — everything is being sold at considerably reduced prices (50-70% bargains are common). The word of the day is taimusēru (タイムサール) — bargains for a limited time. All the small shops inside Laforet are specially decorated and the young salespeople go to great lengths to advertise their merchandise.

And this is what I like best: the cacophony of all the people shouting and making noise to get the attention of crowds of shoppers is breathtaking. No problem for me to sneak through the thirteen floors of the department store, snapping pictures of people hard at work or shopping. So even if you do not plan to buy new clothes, check out this very exciting shopping experience when the Laforet building truly turns into a loud and bustling vertical bazaar with many dozens of individual stalls.

Young saleswoman holding a sign in front of her store.
Young saleswoman holding a sign in front of her store.
Another woman advertising half-price bargains.
Another woman advertising half-price bargains.
Blonde girl hawking purple shoes in Laforet.
Blonde girl hawking purple shoes in Laforet.
A female shopper busy among the crowd in a clothing store.
A female shopper busy among the crowd in a clothing store.
Like this girl, many of the salespeople used simple megaphones to advertise their stuff.
Like this girl, many of the salespeople used simple megaphones to advertise their stuff.
Girl making the v-sign despite holding a sign.
Girl making the v-sign despite holding a sign.
Another girl using a plastic megaphone to get the attention of visitors.
Another girl using a plastic megaphone to get the attention of visitors.
Another store employee trying her best to lure customers to a shop.
Another store employee trying her best to lure customers to a shop.
A young saleswoman having fun doing her job in Laforet
A young saleswoman having fun doing her job in Laforet
Bargains rule at the Laforet Grand Bazar.
Bargains rule at the Laforet Grand Bazar.
Two shopgirls shouting and making noise to attract costumers.
Two shopgirls shouting and making noise to attract costumers.
A Japanese guy with an oversized and sequined bow-tie using a megaphone to advertise bargains.
A Japanese guy with an oversized and sequined bow-tie using a megaphone to advertise bargains.
A snapshot from the Laforet Grand Bazar sale in Harajuku
A snapshot from the Laforet Grand Bazar sale in Harajuku
Real airhead mannequins at the Grand Bazar.
Real airhead mannequins at the Grand Bazar.
Girl sporting a flower chain headdress selling clothes.
Girl sporting a flower chain headdress selling clothes.
Two guys holding signs inviting shoppers to their store.
Two guys holding signs inviting shoppers to their store.
A fashionable female shopper examining some accessories.
A fashionable female shopper examining some accessories.
One last shot of a shopgirl hollering in the Laforet Harajuku summer sale.
One last shot of a shopgirl hollering in the Laforet Harajuku summer sale.
 Posted by at 23:36
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 302010
 



 
The Japanese football team got into the round of sixteen of the 2010 FIFA World cup. Unfortunately, their match against Paraguay was at 11 p.m. local Tokyo time on a Tuesday night (where the last trains leave downtown well before 1 a.m.). Nevertheless I went to Shibuya crossing after having heard that there would be public viewing on the large advertising screens. When I arrived there were already a few thousand football fans gathered on all sides of the scramble crossing but traffic was still ongoing. However, each time the pedestrian crossing lights turned green, the people would roar and run towards each other in the middle of the intersection, dance and jump around while shouting “Nippon, Nippon!” and leave the intersection again after the lights turned red.

Unfortunately, it became clear that there would be no public viewing at the Shibuya crossing as the advertising screens continued to show their regular commercials. After half an hour after I arrived at Shibuya, a large number of Japanese police turned up and began to control the crowd. First they tried to talk the people out of their dangerous behavior, but in the end they changed the flow of traffic by changing the sequence of the traffic signals and herding the crowds with yellow police tape.

Since it was drizzling all the time and with the fun activities curtailed, I left the crossing and went to watch the game on a tv screen in an izakaya in Dōgenzaka. After a long and rather uneventful game Japan lost 3-5 in the penalty shootouts and I had to walk home in the rain.

Spirits were running high and the Shibuya crossing was a large party zone every time the people ran on the intersection.
Spirits were running high and the Shibuya crossing was a large party zone every time the people ran on the intersection.
These Japanese guys were dressed up as some kind of ninjas with their DIY masks.
These Japanese guys were dressed up as some kind of ninjas with their DIY masks.
The Japanese football fans were really excited about the game against Paraguay.
The Japanese football fans were really excited about the game against Paraguay.
Despite the intervention of the police these two Japanese girls were still in a festive mood.
Despite the intervention of the police these two Japanese girls were still in a festive mood.
Japanese soccer fans celebrating with the white-and-red hinomaru flag.
Japanese soccer fans celebrating with the white-and-red hinomaru flag.
People gathered in front of a small restaurant watching the game in the light rain.
People gathered in front of a small restaurant watching the game in the light rain.
In this goalless match the Japanese fans were hoping for a game-winning goal all the time.
In this goalless match the Japanese fans were hoping for a game-winning goal all the time.
As the evening wore on, each free kick was accompanied by intense invocations.
As the evening wore on, each free kick was accompanied by intense invocations.
The penalty shootouts provided lots of tensions for the Japanese football fans.
The penalty shootouts provided lots of tensions for the Japanese football fans.
 Posted by at 04:20
Jun 062010
 



 
Not just shoppers and cosplayers flock to Harajuku on the weekend, but also many other street musicians go there to practise, entertain the passers-by and promote their work and projects. Here the guitarist Shunsuke Watanabe (渡辺駿介) of the Japanese band Bals (バルス) sits in the vicinity of the Harajuku station and performs some live guitar music.

 Posted by at 18:05