Tatara Festival in Kawaguchi City, Saitama

Tokyo’s Samba Carnival in Asakusa and the Awaodori Festival in Koenji are amazing spectacles, but they’re also horribly crowded. If you don’t want to be straining to peer over people’s heads, you have to be there at least an hour before things start.
If you don’t mind seeing things on a slightly smaller scale, you can see pretty much the same thing  a few weeks before in a setting where the crowds are much, much thinner.
During the Nagashi Odori part of the festival, which is based on part of the Awaodori Festival, you can pretty much walk around wherever you want. The event gets a little more crowded when the samba dancers come, but it’s nothing compared to the big Tokyo festivals.

kawaguchi1

kawaguchi2

kawaguchi3

Read the rest of this entry »

Bboy Park 2009

The Bboy park bills itself as Japan’s biggest block party and has been held in Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park since 1997. It’s a two-day event with music, dance, and Hip-hop culture.

For me, the endlessly fascinating thing about it is the way the guys transform from aggressive, fluid, Hip-hop street dancers and rappers into ultra-polite Japanese people within seconds. One minute a guy’s doing moves straight out of Harlem and the next he’s stiff and bowing up and down like a salariman.

There was a huge dance competition that went on for most of the day on Saturday that was just amazing.

bboys3

bboys4

bboys2

bboys1

The festival is held in late August every year. Check Metropolis’ event listings or the Bboy Park Homepage (Japanese only).

The Baby-naming Ceremony

I don’t want this to turn into a baby blog, but Japan does have some interesting baby customs that I’d like to write about.
A couple of weeks ago, my wife got out her old calligraphy set from junior high school to make a meimeisho (Japanese: 命名書). When a baby is seven days old, many Japanese families have a ceremony called a shichiya (Japanese: 七夜)where the baby is officially named and they write one of these posters with the baby’s new name on it.

meimei1

This is my baby’s name, Matthew. In Japanese, it’s pronounced Mashuu. It’s not a real Japanese name, but people often use “ateji,” which are characters that  phonetically represent foreign or native words. The character we chose for “ma” is “miyabi,” which means “elegance” or “refinement.” Since he was born in fall, we chose “aki” for “shuu,” which is the character for “autumn.”
I was a little worried about giving him a foreign-sounding name, but it seems that unusual or foreign-sounding names are becoming somewhat more common these days, and the characters can also be pronounced as “Masaaki,” which is a common Japanese name, if he decides he doesn’t like Mashuu.

meimei2

Here’s the finished product. I’m no calligraphy expert, but I think my wife did a really nice job.

meimei3

The meimeisho is usually displayed in a family shrine or over the baby’s crib, or given as a present to the person who named the child. You can buy them at a stationery store for just a few hundred yen.

At the top right is Matthew’s footprint. His name is in the center, and at the right is his date and time of birth – Sept. 8, 2009 at 1:12 AM.

%d bloggers like this: