Only in Japan! This dude was driving on his Honda bike cross-dressed in a red plaid skirt and shirt outfit in Meguro. But I guess this is not his normal everyday attire — he probably is a performer of some kind on his way to work.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Yoyogi park is a popular hangout and the large pond with its water fountains is one the main attractions where people gather on holidays. This Sunday the weather was fine and it was quite relaxing to spend some time in the park, watch the people and take a couple of snapshots of the scenery.