An unexpected trip to Tokyo in late August gave me the opportunity to introduce my young daughter to many of the great neighborhoods I love to photograph and write about, and scout out a few for future projects. But there were two special events I wanted to include in Volume 2 while they are fresh, before I continue with the original lineup of The Tokyo Project.
Yosakoi is a relatively young dance, originating in the city of Kōchi in 1954 as a modernized version of traditional Awa Odori. The annual festival in Kōchi is still the largest event, but others were created around the country as popularity of the dance spread. This one in Harajuku and Omotesandō at the end of August has been held annually since 2001. Harajuku Omotesando Genki Matsuri Super Yosakoi (原宿表参道元氣祭スーパーよさこい) is an initiative of the Harajuku Omotesandō Keiyakikai (原宿表参道欅会), the shopping district promotion association that manages this well-known part of the city. Everything from street cleaning to trimming the zelkova trees, winter illuminations and special events like Super Yosakoi are all the work of this group. This is major league placemaking.
The entire event spans two days and takes place across multiple venues between Omotesandō, Harajuku and Yoyogi Park. We just came for a quick look at the parade up Omotesandō, when the major artery is closed to vehicles and becomes a sea of noise and color. Had I done my homework properly, I would have known that the dancers only proceed along the south side of the street. Though, on the upside, we didn’t have our eardrums blasted out by the sound trucks.
The 2011 manga and currently broadcasting 2014 anime Hanayamata (ハナヤマタ) features yosakoi dancing. It has been fun to continue watching the season after having seen the real thing up close.
Naruko are little wooden clappers from Kōchi Prefecture, originally used to scare birds in the rice fields, and are a defining feature of the dance. Teams usually have custom naruko made, but the red handle with black and yellow beaters is the traditional coloring. These simple ones are 100 yen each from Daiso and make fun souvenirs.
The dancers proceed from east to west along Omotesandō.
In episode five of Hanyamata, Hana and Naru have a conversation about the various customs associated with public festivals in Japan. While some are low key and peaceful, others are lively and exciting. Yosakoi is most definitely about having a good and raucous time, all around.
This post is part of The Tokyo Project, Volume 2. Click here to go to the introduction and table of contents.