Tag Archives: dance

Dancing Center Stage

August Abandon Afoot

More midsummer fireworks lie loaded on the launchpad, if that’s your thing – Mizunami has their display tonight, as part of their 54th annual Mino Genji Tanabata Festival (a month after most other observances), featuring teams of dancers and taiko drummers on stage for the 16th year now. It takes place Friday through Sunday in front of Mizunami Station. Everyone is invited to hop into the frenzy of the parade. There’s also a “clay objêt” Toudo Festa competition, in which teams have a frenetic 48 hours to sculpt clay into whatever their imaginations can conjur up.

You could consider Mizunami’s Tanabata fest with its dancing a warmup for Nagoya’s 15th annual Nippon Domannaka Matsuri, or Domatsuri for short, to be held from August 23rd to 25th. Some 23,000 dancers on over 200 teams from all over Japan and the world will carouse and compete for championship original folk dance honors.

The only rules, according to the official website, are “each dancer must hold a naruko, or clapper, and … a melody from a local folk tune of the participants’ home area must be incorporated in the music.” As with Mizunami’s revelry, they encourage the audience to join in the dancing as a means of cross-cultural communication, and welcome last-minute entries without reservation, so to speak.

And as long as we’re on the subject of Nippon Domannaka (the very center of Japan), it’s not just figurative talk when people speak of our central location, or the logistical benefits of relocating the national capital to Gifu to help alleviate congestion in Tokyo.

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Here’s a picture of Yasaka Station, the centralmost station in Japan, on the Nagaragawa Railway Etsumi-Nan Line. The diesel-powered single-car line, which you can use to get from Mino Ota on the Taita Line to Gujo (station photo below), also stops at the centralmost hot spring in the country, accessible directly from Manthatsamouthful Minamikodakaraonsen Station (station and spa are under the same roof). Of course the all-night trance-like dances at Gujo are for many a must-see, gotta-groove to thing this time of year as well…

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…as is, for those who can bear to watch, the bridge-jumping, river-plunging tradition on the river you may be able to view from this walkway. I think they jump from the bridge just a few steps to the left of where I took this photo.

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Points of Light

Toki has Bon dancing on Chuo Dori before and during its fireworks. Many people watching the dancing tonight seemed hardly interested in the skypoppers in the background. Among the various colorful yukata of both dancers and watchers were these robes I though depicted the swoopdown swallows I recently wrote about, until I realized they were great blue herons flying upward. Kind of Escherian, especially considering they both frequent the Toki River.

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Music for the dancing was performed by shamisen, shakuhachi bamboo flute and taiko players on a stage in the middle of the street, and emceed by a professional announcer.

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Rounded domes of fireworks patterns, lanterns, ceramic fuurin wind chimes, and, here, even a passing older gentleman’s white hair populated the evening’s floating world.

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On the subject of flashing points of light, I was hoping to show you photos of fireflies this summer, but they are even more elusive than I thought. Maybe next year.

And this is probably as appropriate a place as there’ll ever be for this indispensible nugget: After years of fruitless furtive roadbound glancing to see if anyone’s blinkers were in sync with mine (which futility led me to wonder if car manufacturers deliberately set every single car’s blinker timing differently so as to ensure each one stood out; two in synch and stacked in parallax could look like one, for instance), like a slap-happy syncopated lightning bug, I recently finally found visual harmony: a Suzuki Cervo ahead of me was flashing in unqualified perfect unison with my turn signal. Not some alternating in-phase, out-of-phase approximation. A lockstepped, serendipitous synchronicity, an amber alignment perchance mined from the same hunk of quartz somewhere in Brazil or backwoods Arkansas. It was sublime.

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And then, as the traffic light changed, like a fleeting fireworks trail or a fuurin bell’s fading ring, or summer itself, our do-si-do dance of light was gone.

A Twinkling, Screaming, Popping, Sparkling, Booming High Point of Summer

No, if you read the title expecting more, this unfortunately wasn’t last night’s date; It was Toki’s fireworks festival, also marking the end of the bon dances in front of Toki Station.

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Above, a mother-and-child (I think) dance performance entertains early-arriving onlookers.

The sign below seems to say it’s omelette yakisoba. Anyway, it was one big, pernicious, plopping pile of noodle that oozed and begged for a shutter-clicking. Other usual-suspect temptations offered on Yatai Way ranged from frozen cucumbers on a skewer to takoyaki, yakitori, and candied apples, crêpes, and chocolate-covered bananas.

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I’d think these vendors mostly manage to keep a slim physique by not eating their own confections hustling for your yen under heat-trapping awnings, setting up scaffolding from one town to the next with the greatest of efficiency.

People started grabbing viewing spots along the Toki River before sunset. In the background below is Ceratopia.

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It struck me, though I may be forcing the issue like a college sophomore eager to please a professor and his/her grand, sweeping assertions (or like a professor carried away with a fanciful sense of elegance), that fireworks (especially when you try to capture them in a photo) are another example of the especially Japanese-appreciated evanescence of life, embodied in a group-beheld spectacle, like the fluttering landward paratrooping of sakura petals, or, more privately experienced, but still by all, the brief burst of a locust’s life and its inevitable ignominious but unapologetic darting death.

Flowery language, I admit. But this is flower-fire, by way of translation. And I am a certified, frustrated, never-was (but never-fired!) professor of sociolinguistic anthropologicalistic expialidocious poppycock. Class (which was never really an issue anyway) dismissed.

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As a bonus, I even sniffed the faint scent of smoke drifting my way as I snapped pictures of the crackle and pop. Another quintessential fleeting floating world sensation…

Celebrate Your Culture

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Stragglers head back from today’s Tajimi Matsuri. Big fireworks boomed at 10AM this Culture Day to remind people of the festivities that included events at the Tono Shinkin Bank Headquarters parking lot as well as the unfailing sales of ceramics. After lunch people took up positions along the parade route early to get a good view. I was in Toki during the parade itself. Train delays (more uncanny luck with a relatively rare rail ride) for “crossing inspection” kept me from catching any of the action.

Also worth celebrating: the Chunichi Dragons have won the first two games of their League Championship Series with the Yakult Swallows. Way to go!

On Dasher! On Dancer! – Or – Did You Go to Gujo This Year?

I guess there are a few nights left of all-night trance dance in Gujo. I imagine it’s basically de rigeur for – pseudo-oxymoron alert – local foreigners interested in – been-there-done-that-irony alert – beating a path to what they presume to be off-the-beaten-path festivals. Dash-It-All! Did you know today is Give-Your-Hyphen-Key-A-Gratuitous-Gentle-Caress Day?

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In a photo from last summer, a water bucket hangs from a residence in the fire-conscious town. Hanging outside nearly every home on some streets, they might be useful for dousing heat-crazed dancers too.

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Above, a walkway along the river near the bridge where they have a tradition of jumping for fun or nothing so much as dad-blamed foolhardiness bravery-building.