Halloween in Shibuya, Tokyo

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Happy Halloween in Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan’s massive costume street gathering on Oct. 31, 2016. Saw it for the first time from about 9 pm to 10:30 pm. Costumers and cosplayers of all kinds gathered in Shibuya for three nights in a row since Sat. night on the 29th. Last night was the largest gathering despite Halloween falling on a weekday this year.

Japan is the world’s undisputed Cosplay Super Power. Where the word “cosplay” was invented in the 1990s. Combine that with the “kawaii culture” and you create a street photographer’s paradise.

News reports this year have indicated that Halloween in Japan is fast becoming a major seasonal/commercial event, on par with Valentine’s Day (when Japanese chocolate makers make most of their annual sales). Halloween merchandise has been taking off in Japan.

Good, clean fun for everyone. There must’ve been at least 200,000 people at least. The entire Hachiko (dog) plaza was full of people. Ironically, nobody said “trick or treat” and I didn’t see anyone giving out Halloween candy. (No one carried candy bags either.) Japan invents its own Halloween (and Valentine’s Day).

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For the first time this year, the police wisely closed off a few major roads around Shibuya Station for Halloween. Even then, the road to 109 and Dogenzaka were filled with people. I can’t imagine how crowded the sidewalks must’ve been until last year when they didn’t do this.

I’m really glad that the police are being very cooperative by closing the roads to traffic. Usually, the police kill off such street culture events due to snarled traffic and complaints about the noise, etc. People in Akihabara still cannot stage street performances when the roads are closed to traffic (hokoten) on weekends. But Shibuya is very welcoming of these costumers. Hopefully, they didn’t litter the streets as much as before.

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The main attraction for these costumers is that they meet other costumers and take photos together. Great way to meet people (and ask for phone numbers).

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Halloween in Shibuya is now a major tourist attraction in Tokyo. Lots of tourists posed with willing costumers. Nothing like this happens on Valentine’s Day nor Christmas. I have no doubt that this event will start attracting major celebrities. Think Lady Gaga, etc. Gonna get even more crazy.

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You see all these weird costume collaborations. Captain America and China girls. They just get together spontaneously.

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This all-night Halloween event is becoming Tokyo’s rare venue for a vibrant youth street culture. We should have more street events like this. I haven’t seen such a massive street event in Japan in a long time. There’s no organizer, no sponsors, no set event time, but it still happens. Just a spontaneous, massive street gathering. Unbelievable.

More photos here.

Asakusa Samba Carnival 2016 photos

With the Rio Olympics in 2016, I thought seeing Asakusa Samba this year was a good idea. It was a cool day as well, not the usual summer heat. It did rain a bit, but I’ll take the cool over a hot summer sun any day. Photos shot on Aug. 27, 2016, 1 pm to 6 pm in Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan.

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Horse-themed Robot Restaurant girls at Asakusa Samba 2016.

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Yuka-chan, A.B.S.UNIDOS DO URBANA based in Nagoya.

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Truly bizarre costume.

Truly bizarre costume.

Onsen (hot spring) themed float.

Onsen (hot spring) themed float.

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She's definitely some kind of athlete.

She’s definitely some kind of athlete.

Tokyo’s best cherry blossom spots

Happy spring! Here’s an illustrated list of Tokyo’s best cherry blossoms (sakura). To see more photos of each spot, click on the photo or name of the site.

Ueno Park

Ueno Park & Shinobazu Pond (上野公園・不忍池)
One of Tokyo’s biggest outdoor hanami parties are held in Ueno. The best spots are reserved hours in advance with tarps. Cherries are also lit up at night. If you want to know what hanami is like, come to Ueno. Lots of museums too. To escape the madness of Ueno Park, go to the adjacent Shinobazu Pond, picturesque for a stroll through the sakura. Near Ueno Station.

Chidorigafuchi

Chidorigafuchi

Chidorigafuchi (千鳥ヶ淵)
Cherry blossoms along the huge moat of the Imperial Palace (former Edo Castle) makes this one of Tokyo’s most photogenic spots. There is a pleasant path to walk through the cherries as well as rowboats on the moat. Be prepared for the crowds. Also beautiful at night. Near Kudanshita Station (Tozai Line).

 Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden (新宿御苑)
After Ueno Park, this huge garden-park is massively popular for hanami picnics. Unlike Ueno Park, there’s lots of open, grassy space and room for picnickers. Garden itself is great to walk around too. Near Shinjuku Gyoen-mae Station on the Marunouchi Line.

Sumida Park

Sumida Park

Sumida Park (隅田公園)
Riverside park near Asakusa is lined with many cherry trees on both sides of Sumida River. Mainly for people to stroll under the trees. The main draw for photographers is the cherry blossoms with Tokyo Skytree in the background. Flowers and Skytree both lit up at night too. Near Asakusa Station.

 Toshi Nogyo Koen Park

Toshi Nogyo Koen Park

Toshi Nogyo Koen Park (都市農業公園の五色桜)
If you’re American, definitely check out this park. This is where the famous cherry trees in Washington, DC came from in 1912. This park is in the Kohoku Village area famous for colorful varieties of cherry blossoms. Literally called “goshiki” or five colors. Sadly, they all died, so saplings from the Washington, DC cherry trees were brought over here and replanted here 30 years ago. These trees are called “homecoming trees” (里帰りの桜). You can see descendants of Washington, DC cherry trees thriving here. They must be happy to be in the land of their ancestors. Adachi Ward also has a “Reagan Sakura” tree planted at Toneri Park from a sapling presented by Nancy Reagan in 1981. From Nishi-Arai Station on Tobu Railway, take a bus for Toshi Nogyo Koen Park. Takes about 20-30 min.

Zojoji

Zojoji

Zojoji Temple (増上寺)
If you like temples and samurai, this is the place. Zojoji was the official temple of the Tokugawa shoguns. You can see the tombs of some of the shoguns and their wives and children. Tokyo Tower is also in the background. Neighboring Shiba Park also has fine views of Tokyo Tower and cherry blossoms. Near Onarimon Station on the Mita subway line, Daimon Station on the Toei Oedo and Asakusa subway lines, and JR Hamamatsu-cho Station.

Inokashira Park

Inokashira Park

Inokashira Park (井の頭公園)
Inokashira Park has always been a local favorite. The highlight is renting a rowboat on the sakura-fringed pond. There’s hardly any grass to sit on, so bring a picnic mat. There’s also a zoo with Hanako, Japan’s oldest elephant. Near Kichijoji Station.

 Koganei Park

Koganei Park

Koganei Park (小金井公園)
I would call this the biggest and most impressive sakura spot in western Tokyo. When in full bloom, the trees are just fantastic. Within the park is the Edo-Tokyo Open-Air Architectural Museum, an outdoor museum of architecture of 27 reconstructed buildings originally from the Edo Period and up to the 1930s. Near Musashi-Koganei Station on the Chuo Line.

Yasukuni Shrine

Yasukuni Shrine

Yasukuni Shrine (靖國神社)
If you go to Chidorigafuchi, you might as well see Yasukuni Shrine across the street. The blooming of one sakura tree there serves as Tokyo’s barometer for the weather bureau to officially declare that cherry blossoms have started blooming in Tokyo. Near Kudanshita Station on the Tozai Line.

Rikugien Garden

Rikugien Garden’s weeping cherry.

Rikugien Garden (六義園)
Rikugien is one of two of Edo’s famous gardens (other is Koishikawa Korakuen). It has a beautiful weeping cherry tree. Expect a line at the entrance when the tree is in bloom. Also lit up at night. Near Komagome Station on the Yamanote Line.

Koishikawa Korakuen Garden

Koishikawa Korakuen Garden

Koishikawa Korakuen Garden (小石川後楽園)
Koishikawa Korakuen is another famous Edo-Period Japanese garden. Originally built by Lord Yorifusa of the Mito Tokugawa Clan in 1629 as part of his Edo estate. The garden was completed under Lord Mitsukuni, the second lord of the Mito clan. Famous for weeping cherry trees and other flowers. Near Iiidabashi Station and Korakuen Station.

Harimazaka

Harimazaka

Harimazaka (播磨坂桜並木)
Harimazaka road, named after Lord Matsudaira Harima who had his main residence here during the Edo Period, is lined with 127 cherry blossom trees for about 460 meters along a wide, central median. The cherry trees were planted in 1960. A few outdoor sculptures complement the trees. On weekends, the road is closed to traffic so we can enjoy the blossoms more. Near Myogadani Station on the Marunouchi Line.

Yanaka Cemetery

Yanaka Cemetery

Yanaka Cemetery (谷中霊園)
Most of Tokyo’s major cemeteries have cherry blossoms. Yanaka has a lot of them. They also allow hanami picnics. Interesting contrast with gravestones. Then again, it might make the departed souls happy to be in their midst. The cemetery is noted for graves of famous people like actor Hisaya Morishige, Eiichi Shibusawa, Yokozuna Dewanoumi, artist Taikan Yokoyama, and the last Tokugawa shogun Yoshinobu, but they are off limits to the public. Tennoji temple is also nice to visit. Near JR Nippori Station.

 Meguro River

Meguro River

Meguro River (目黒川桜まつり)
Very crowded in the evening when the cherry blossoms are lit up. No picnicking allowed. Just stroll and look. However, the roads are narrow and passing cars are a nuisance. Near Naka-Meguro Station (Hibiya Line).

Yoyogi Park

Yoyogi Park

Yoyogi Park (代々木公園)
Another park popular for hanami. Smaller than Ueno Park and Shinjuku Gyoen Garden. There is more open space than cherry trees, so many people picnic under the sky instead of a cherry tree. Very long lines for restrooms, especially for ladies. Near Yoyogi-Koen Station on the Chiyoda Line.

Sotobori Canal

Sotobori Canal

Sotobori Canal (外濠)
Ride the Chuo Line or Sobu Line in central Tokyo and you will see the cherry blossoms along the parallel moat. Formerly a moat of Edo Castle, this canal stretching from Iidabashi Station to Ichigaya Station along the Chuo Line. For train fans who like to shoot trains and cherry blossoms.

Other notable spots:

Aoyama Cemetery (青山霊園) – Minato Ward, Near Gaienmae Station (Ginza/Hanzomon Line) and Nogizaka Station (Chiyoda Line).

Asukayama Park (飛鳥山公園) – Kita Ward, Near Oji Station on the Keihin-Tohoku Line.

Fuchu Sakura Matsuri (府中市民桜まつり) – Fuchu, Near Fuchu Station on the Keio Line from Shinjuku.

Kunitachi Daigaku-dori (国立大学通り〜さくら通り) – Near JR Kunitachi Station.

Nakano-dori – Nakano Ward, Near Nakano Station.

Senzoku-ike Pond (洗足池) – Ota Ward, Near Senzoku-Ike Station on the Tokyu Ikegami Line.

Showa Kinen Park (昭和記念公園) – Tachikawa, near JR Nishi-Tachikawa Station.

Shakujii Park (石神井公園) – Nerima-ku, Near Shakujii-Koen Station on the Seibu Ikebukuro Line.

Tama Cemetery (多摩霊園) – Fuchu, Near Tama Station on the Seibu Tamagawa Line or a 2-minute walk from Reien Omotemon bus stop via Keio Bus from JR Musashi-koganei Station.

Shakujii River Cherry Blossoms (石神井川の桜並木) – Itabashi-ku, near Shin-Itabashi Station on the Mita subway line.

Tokyo Marathon 2016 photos

A record 36,000+ runners at the 10th Tokyo Marathon on Feb. 28, 2016. This was near the 30 km checkpoint near Asakusabashi Station. They still had 10 km left to go

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Black Kumamon (very unusual).

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Beautiful sunny day and not that cold.

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Belly dancer?

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Someone’s dad going for it.

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Lum-chan.

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Tomato runner named Tsuyoshi.

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Elegant

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Taiwanese runner in some kind of ethnic costume with bells.

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Most of the spectators knew someone in the marathon.

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American crab.

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Daikon

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Ghostbusters (not a protractor)

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Beko bull (bobbing head) from Fukushima.

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The Buddha. I didn’t see Jesus Christ (carrying a large cross on his back) this year. Maybe this Buddha took his place.

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Friendly Buddha

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Taiyaki

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Carrying katsuo (bonito). Fake of course.

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Red and white are auspicious colors in Japan.

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Kawaii

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General MacArthur with “Bushido” (Way of the Warrior).

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This runner had leg cramps and a bystander gave him a massage.

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T-Rex from Taiwan.

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Very fit grandparents running together.

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Her note thanks all the marathon staff and spectators for their support.

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This is how I felt after the marathon.

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Buses standby at the 30 km checkpoint for those who couldn’t make it in time.

More photos here…

Asakusa Geisha Ozashiki Odori Dance

Video link: https://youtu.be/xgtYl0AtDbE

Asakusa geisha gave free performances for tourists at the Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center on Saturdays from mid-Oct. to late Nov. 2015. The show I saw in this video featured 92-year-old Yuko, Tokyo’s oldest geisha still going strong. Two shows on each Saturday at 1 pm and 2:30 pm. Free tickets are distributed on the day of the performance in the lobby of the Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center from 10 am. They perform in spring and autumn.

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Sawara no Taisai Autumn Festival 2015

Video link: https://youtu.be/zf-cqFHQre8

Sawara no Taisai Autumn Festival (佐原の大祭秋祭り) is a festival of ornate floats paraded around Sawara (Katori), Chiba Prefecture, Japan on Oct. 10, 2015. Floats (called dashi) are about 7 meters high and weigh 3 to 4 tons. They have intricate wood carvings and a large doll depicting a historical or legendary Japanese figure. Each float is from a neighborhood in Sawara. Most of the floats and dolls were made in the late 19th century or early 20th century.

Dating back 300 years, the festival is held for three days in July (10 floats) and Oct. (14 floats). This year, they did not follow a set parade route. The float pullers also dance and the main highlight is when they turn the float a few times. The festival is a National Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property. Held near JR Sawara Station (JR Narita Line) and along Ono River’s traditional townscape.

Sawara is noted for its traditional townscape along the river so it’s worth visiting even without the festival.

Koenji Awa Odori 2015

Video link: https://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I

Saw the magnificent Koenji Awa Odori dance festival on Sat. Aug. 29, 2015 from 5 pm to 8 pm in Koenji, Tokyo, Japan.

Koenji Awa Odori is a huge street dance festival held annually on the last weekend of Aug. near Koenji Station (JR Chuo Line) and Shin-Koenji Station (Marunouchi Line) in Suginami Ward, Tokyo, Japan.

About 5,000 performers in about 80 dance troupes called “ren” performed on Sat. and Sun. evenings from 5 pm to 8 pm. This video shows 40 troupes on Sat. evening. Most troupes are based in Tokyo including a good number from Koenji. A few are from Tokushima where Awa Odori originated.

登場する40連(みなみ演舞場にて): 山形んだず連、しのぶ連、杉並区役所さざんか連、南相馬連、葵新連、弁慶連、心美連、­朱雀連、晃妙連、舞蝶連、ひょっとこ連、楓連、志留波阿連、美踊連、第三企画連・殿様­連、写楽連、苔作連、江戸歌舞伎連、だむだん連、のびゆく連、華純連、和楽連、江戸浮­連、初台連、東京天水連、高円寺 誠連、美遊ひよこ連、花道連、むさし葵連、騒連中、つくし連、目黒銀座連、天翔連、い­ろは連、三茶連、花菱連、東京えびす連、粋輦、りずむ連、天狗連・平和連

Shortcut links to troupes appearing in this video (*Koenji Awa Odori Association members. **Troupes from Tokushima.):
Yamagata Undazu-ren: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=4m00s
Shinobu-ren*: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=5m15s
Suginami City Hall Sazanka-ren: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=6m31s
Minami Soma-ren: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=8m7s
Aoi Shin-ren*: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=8m20s
Benkei-ren*: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=11m32s
Shinbi-ren: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=13m03s
Suzaku-ren*: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=14m1s
Komyo-ren: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=15m53s
Maicho-ren*: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=17m59s
Hyottoko-ren*: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=21m53s
Kaede-ren: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=24m44s
Silver-ren*: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=27m16s
Midori-ren*: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=29m57s
Daisan Kikaku-ren & Tonosama-ren**: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=31m51s
Sharaku-ren*: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=35m49s
Kokesaku-ren**: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=40m0s
Edo Kabuki-ren*: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=41m57s
Damudan-ren: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=44m54s
Nobiyuku-ren*: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=46m43s
Kasumi-ren: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=48m15s
Waraku-ren*: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=51m17s
Edo Uki-ren*: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=52m56s
Hatsudai-ren: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=54m3s
Tokyo Tensui-ren*: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=55m54s
Koenji Makoto-ren*: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=58m49s
Miyu Hiyoko-ren: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=1h2m12s
Hanamichi-ren*: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=1h5m10s
Musashi Aoi-ren: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=1h6m34s
Zomeki-renchu*: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=1h7m15s
Tsukushi-ren: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=1h8m14s
Meguro Ginza-ren: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=1h10m38s
Tensho-ren*: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=1h12m2s
Iroha-ren*: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=1h13m46s
Sancha-ren: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=1h16m20s
Hanabishi-ren*: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=1h18m38s
Tokyo Ebisu-ren: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=1h20m53s
Sui-ren*: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=1h21m59s
Rhythm-ren: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=1h23m49s
Tengu-ren* & Heiwa-ren**: http://youtu.be/0-R4Tkzuw8I?t=1h25m58s

 

Higashi Rinkan Awa Odori 2015

Went to the Higashi Rinkan Awa Odori dance festival on Aug. 2, 2015 from 5:30 pm to 9 pm in Sagamihara, Kanagawa, Japan. The dance was held near Higashi Rinkan Station on the Odakyu Enoshima Line. It was excellent, but it was a hot/humid evening. Watched it at the Higashi Chuo Enbujo and Nishi Ekimae Embujo.

Dance troupes appearing in this video: Goraku-ren, Sukeroku-ren, Chidori-ren, Susono-ren, Hiyori-ren, Kyodo Murasaki-ren, Eboshi-ren, Odorikko-ren, Shonan Nagisa-ren, and Tokyo Tensui-ren.

Direct links
Goraku-ren 伍楽連: https://youtu.be/Bmv5ppFXt4s?t=42s
Sukeroku-ren 助六連: https://youtu.be/Bmv5ppFXt4s?t=9m30s
Chidori-ren ちどり連: https://youtu.be/Bmv5ppFXt4s?t=17m51s
Susono-ren すその連: https://youtu.be/Bmv5ppFXt4s?t=26m40s
Hiyori-ren ひより連: https://youtu.be/Bmv5ppFXt4s?t=30m24s
Kyodo Murasaki-ren 経堂むらさき連: https://youtu.be/Bmv5ppFXt4s?t=39m57s
Eboshi-ren 笑星連­: https://youtu.be/Bmv5ppFXt4s?t=44m55s
Odorikko-ren 舞龍連: https://youtu.be/Bmv5ppFXt4s?t=50m30s
Shonan Nagisa-ren 湘南なぎさ連: https://youtu.be/Bmv5ppFXt4s?t=57m1s
Tokyo Tensui-ren 東京天水連: https://youtu.be/Bmv5ppFXt4s?t=1h1m27s

Yamato Awa Odori 2015


Video link: https://youtu.be/RFGHs7gD3jM

The 39th Yamato Awa Odori dance festival was held on July 25-26, 2015 from 5 pm to 8:30 pm in Yamato, Kanagawa, Japan. I went to see it on July 25, very hot, humid day. This video shows the following dance troupes: Ioto-shima-chidori-ren, Azuma-ren, Chidori-ren, Sonjo-ren, Ukiyo-ren, Yokohama Nishiya-ren, Kensetsu-ren, Medaka-ren, Fuzuki-ren, and Shinbashi-ren.

Chidori-ren is based at the NAF Atsugi Base and I was impressed by a few American dancers. They were as good as the Japanese dancers.

登場する連:硫黄島島千鳥連、あずま連、ちどり連、そんじょ連、浮世連、横浜西谷連、­けんせつ連、東三丁目めだか連、楓月連、新橋連、蜻蛉連(2015年7月25日に撮影­、主にみずき通りにて)

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