6th December 2015
Although I was far away from Japan, it was impressive to see just how much of an influence Japanese culture has in the lives, interests and artistic expression of people everywhere.
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31st August 2016
Last weekend Harajuku was host to a huge two day dance contest and exhibition.
Yosakoi is a somewhat modern form of dance in Japan, combining traditional elements with highly energetic team movement, upbeat music and vibrant costumes. Traditional instruments and dress like the shamisen and yukata are present, but often literally stripped away at a moment’s notice to reveal drum and bass lines and outlandish hula or pirate costumes hiding underneath. Some groups will have 3 costume changes throughout the course of a single dance!
The most striking element for me is the fact that teams are composed of men and women from age 8 to 80 (with some even younger members supporting from the sides), and everyone is always grinning like there’s nothing more fun in this world. The dances are accompanied by team chants and every member has a wooden clapping instrument called a naruko. Huge team flags wave wildly and everyone presses on despite the weather raging back and forth between rain and scorching sun.
This particular Yosakoi festival took place in Harajuku, with multiple stages and over 100 teams competing. There was also a large staging area where you could see all the groups practicing or getting ready, and stalls featuring a variety of interesting foods such as fried octopus and oyster udon. The team spirit is infectious, and it’s hard not to be impressed by the devotion of all these teams as they spill out by the bus load and pep each other up ready to dance for hours on end.